Stages Not Ages

Perhaps the biggest challenge facing those who serve mid-life adults is the language used to describe and engage them. Terms like "senior," "elderly," even "older adult" carry negative connotations that usually suggest diminished or declining capacities. A term like "retirement" is becoming irrelevant in today’s world of extended and active work lives.

Marketing leaders believe that active older adults are best reached by appealing to their core values, interests and lifestyle choices rather than by targeting their chronological age. Many mid-life adults who are active, engaged, adventurous types respond best to experiences that promise them the same.

Organizations (including public libraries) that effectively market themselves to mid-life adults acknowledge this "encore" stage of life as a time of exploring options, making new connections, learning new things, re-tooling skills, and sharing talents and wisdom. By targeting mid-life adults with language that speaks to a life stage and not an age, organizations will attract people of all ages who are navigating that particular stage or who share similar interests and lifestyles.

When it comes to a mid-life demographic marketing strategies consider:

  • Instead of age, think STAGE.
  • Instead of illness, think WELLNESS.
  • Instead of old, think ACTIVE.
  • Instead of decline, think POTENTIAL.
  • Instead of cared for, think INDEPENDENT.

By promoting AGELESS CONCEPTS, adults of all ages benefit.  In fact, reframing how we think about aging can be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Research has found that thinking positively about getting older can extend one's life by 7.5 years – that's more than the longevity gained from low blood pressure, or low cholesterol, or maintaining a healthy weight, or abstaining from smoking, or exercising regularly!

Recent Marketing Efforts from California Libraries

The Hayward Public Library Book to Action program was featured in a presentation at the 2011 California Library Association's annual conference and the promotional materials won the CLA PRExcellence First Place Award in the less than $5 million budget category.

Through a partnership with Skyline College, the Daly City Public Library offered two 9-week Wi$eUp programs which focused on financial literacy issues facing Boomers.

Boomers, who work in Palo Alto but live elsewhere and therefore do not often use the Palo Alto City Library, were offered 5 lunch-time Feed Your Head programs that featured experts on brain fitness and healthy aging from Stanford University Medical Center.

The Santa Monica Public Library designed and delivered a program series called The Living Room Project which showcased 28 different educational and cultural programs for older adults that resulted in a total combined attendance of 1592 people.

Marketing Your Own Efforts

The most effective marketing strategy is engaging your community before you even begin positioning your library as a hub for productive aging. It will be still important, however, to TELL your community about these efforts. Traditional media approaches can help you get the word out, but don’t forget your library's own web site and social media tools. The key to such internet marketing success is ubiquity: making your project known across a multitude of web and social media sites.