#PRConf15 guest blog three: Generation Gap or Communication Breakdown?

Written by Jacky James, MPRINZ, Shine PR

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 22:  during the annual Public Relations Institute of New Zealand Conference on May 22, 2015 in Wellington, New Zealand.  (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Grainne Moss, Managing Director at Bupa Care Services (Photo by Mark Tantrum/Getty Images)

Whatever your perception of “the elderly” may be – be prepared to change it!

Regardless of whether you call it the ageing population mega-trend or the “silver tsunami”, the increasing size of the older generation means they are an important stakeholder group for almost every community engagement, marketing or PR project.

According to BUPA Care Services  Managing Director, Grainne Moss, speaking at the 2015 PRINZ Conference on Generation Gap or Communication Breakdown?, the traditional stereotypes relating to the older generation have been turned on their heads – as have their communications needs.

In today’s world, the over 65 years’ age bracket do not consider themselves old. In a recent survey, 47% felt that “old age” did not start until after 80 years of age and 72% did not see themselves as “old” – in a survey where some of the respondents were over 95!

My grannie-in-law was a case in point. She lived on her own, in her original marital home, until the ripe old age of 98 years when she was cooking most of her own meals and baking for the family. Only a few years before that she was still working in her Church Op Shop and going to sing at the “old folks” home – the fact that she was older than most of those she was entertaining was completely beside the point!

Attitude is everything for this market. They are keeping it fresh in terms of how they want to live their lives, and the way they communicate, and are communicated to, needs to be fresh and relevant as well.

Grainne’s most important piece of advice is to take the time to truly understand the various segments (working, divorced, caregiver, low/high decile) within this complex market – and don’t give them labels.

“They do not want to be grouped – they want to maintain their independence and individuality, and are more active and involved. They want to dial up the lifestyle factor and they want to kick their shoes off!”

According to Grainne, the lower decile sectors of this market have views that are just as clear and firm, and have aspirations for a quality lifestyle, even though they may not have the means to achieve it.

Some of the traditional standards still apply – print remains the most common communications tool, followed by letterbox mailers and the Internet. Watch your font size and utilise Royal Society of the Blind guidelines in terms of colour, white space, font etc.

This is a vibrant and growing segment of society who are playing an increasingly influential role in their families and communities. Ignore them at your peril!

For some inspiration and insight, Grainne played the trailer to Hip Hop Operation, view it here.

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