Senior Advertising: 3 Aging-Related Changes that Marketers Should Know

February 3, 2022


To successfully advertise to older adults, there are three types of aging-related changes they experience that marketers should consider: physical changes; mental changes; and changes in seniors’ decision-making processes. Each of these changes creates barriers to communication that prevent effective delivery of your selling message.

Physical Changes

As we age, we can expect to experience declines in all five senses. From an advertiser’s perspective, declines in three of those five senses really affect a senior’s ability to take in an ad message. They are hearing, vision, and touch.

55% of 75-80 year old adults suffer some degree of hearing loss. That percentage increases to 89% for those over 80.[i] This makes comprehension of audio messaging in advertisements increasingly difficult, especially if that speech is competing with other sounds and noises – like background music – that might be added to a commercial. To combat obstacles to communication created by hearing loss, advertisers need to be plenty loud, plenty slow and without competing audio effects or music.

Vision declines – mainly due to a reduced amount of light reaching the retina – hamper a senior’s ability to read ad messaging. To compensate, advertisers should attempt to maximize contrast between ad copy and background. Larger, bolder typefaces (12 point or more) will also make reading easier. And avoid fancy typefaces, italics and reverse type. All of these increase the difficulty for seniors to read your advertising message. (To quote the late, great advertising icon, David Ogilvy, if you ever have to include a required disclaimer in your advertising that you don’t want your customer to read, display the disclaimer in a reversed, italic agate typeface. No one will ever see it!)

Changes in touch can also be a problem. As manual dexterity declines (often a result of arthritis which is common among older adults), navigation of websites becomes more difficult. Working through websites and online ads need to be as seamless as possible. This is even more important when asking seniors to navigate a website on small-screen mobile devices.

None of these admonitions should present barriers to creativity or good design. They just make comprehension of marketing messages easier and clearer for elderly consumers.

Mental Changes

It’s generally true that aging adults experience increasing difficulty with mental tasks like:

  • Multi-tasking
  • Following complex instructions
  • Comprehending long sentences and paragraphs

This is due, in part, to slower information processing and more trouble dealing with distractions.

Hence, advertising targeting seniors needs to be concise, uncluttered and easy-to-follow – which, by the way, is consistent with good technique regardless of the target for your advertising.

Decision-making Process Changes

Older adults make decisions differently than younger adults. And it’s not a bad thing; just different.

Seniors enjoy the benefit of “life experience.” As a result, they often find it unnecessary to spend a lot of time considering a purchase decision before making it. They rely more on intuition, rather than reason. After all, you generally don’t have to think too hard about an issue, if you’ve made similar decisions in the past!

As a result, they:

  • Tend to consider less information.
  • Eliminate possibilities and choices more quickly.      
  • Are less likely to spend a lot of time analyzing information when making a decision, because they are better at simplifying decision options.

They are also less subject to peer influence. “Keeping-up-with-the-Jones” is not so important to elderly consumers. Just give them the facts, and get out of their way!

Make It Easy

There are a lot of factors that make advertising to aging adults different – and probably more difficult – than advertising to younger cohorts. If you haven’t experienced advanced aging yourself, your perspective about a senior’s needs and capacity to receive your selling messages is limited. However, rules for marketing to seniors can probably be summed up like this:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Clarity trumps creativity.
  • Don’t “talk down” to them – their physical capabilities and thought processes may be different than those of younger consumers, but that doesn’t mean they are wrong – they are just different.

Following these three rules can go a long way towards creating effective advertising that targets the valuable senior market.

[i] Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population, 2017