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Promoting Physical Activity to the Aging Market

by ICAA December 16, 2009

Older man working out

Those of us who work in health and wellness have a tremendous opportunity before us to positively influence the health of well over 100 million aging Americans. The “Baby Boomer and beyond” demographic needs solutions for ongoing health issues—and this group is looking for them.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80% of adults ages 65-plus have at least one chronic health issue and, according to the World Health Organization, this age group spends more on health than anything else.  (Consider: One market research firm estimated that this group would invest more than 72 billion dollars in 2009, in an effort to hold back time.)  Boomers face epidemics of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions in the coming years. In fact, they are already reporting more disabilities than in the past, reveals a recent study to be published in the American Journal of Public Health. Not surprisingly, the goal of most aging adults today is to prevent, delay, manage or improve health conditions, so they can remain independent and active in society.


Older adults already know that regular physical activity is good for their health. Although health is a key concern for them and something they are willing to invest in, there have been statistically insignificant improvements in the levels of physical activity among age 65-plus adults in the last 10 years.(5)


Maybe it's time to rethink how we market physical activity to an older audience. The 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans offers a tool we can use to market physical activity as the foundation for active, independent aging and a solution for chronic health issues. To do this, we need to understand that “Nearly half of the Baby Boom Generation believes there is little truth in advertising and more than 60% wish ads had more real information, suggesting that America's advertising industry may be missing the mark in targeting the most affluent generation in U.S. history.”


What do we have to do differently to get a better result? The following are a few recommendations for how we can start marketing efforts that reach and resonate with older Americans:


1. Become a student of the market before you start marketing to them. Learn about their needs, desires, dreams and expectations.

2. Speak their language and not ours.

3. Build a relationship.

4. Tell a story.

5. Keep it real by using peer role models.


Using the Physical Activity Guidelines, we can be specific in our messaging and recommendations, as well as share the facts. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we can share what a physically active lifestyle really means. Aging actively is about having solutions to health issues; spending less on healthcare and medications; keeping involved in life; staying independent; being able to go on trips; protecting mind, body and spirit; aging at home; spending time with grandkids; and much, much more. It’s about the ability to live life fully at any age.


What has been your organization’s success factor in promoting physical activity to older individuals?


Tags: ,

Marketing Physical Activity


12/17/2009 2:37:15 PM #

Great points about the importance of ads with real information and truth in advertising for baby boomers. Using peer role models is an important concept that appeals to younger generations too as they naturally speak the same language.

Karen United States |

12/18/2009 12:32:19 PM #

I applaud ICAA for bringing to our attention the importance of addressing marketing strategies when communicating about the importance of regular physical activity as an integral component of healthy aging.

The tremendous success of the CDC "Verb - Its What You Do" campaign in reaching children with messages related to physical activity, underscores how important it is for health professionals to partner with and seek advice from communications specialists if we are to successfully reach our target audience.

Experts from ICAA have done a great job sharing strategies with regard to messages that move seniors.  I am glad that they are sharing their wisdom with the readers of this blog.

Wojtek Chodzko-Zajko United States |

12/21/2009 5:07:36 PM #

We've had success in marketing to older adults by realizing that some "older" forms of media are still relevant for this group. We still offer print versions of some of our physical activity brochures - often, older adults like to feel, touch and see things rather than read them on a screen. We get regular calls about these brochures and older adults appreciate the fact that our materials are written by experts.

Jim Pivarnik, Ph.D., FACSM, President of the American College of Sports Medicine United States |

12/29/2009 2:55:30 PM #

I work for the Delaware Senior Olympics where the helping the 50+ community keep active is our business.  We have taken the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans as the basis for our Walk Delaware and Senior Group Challenge programs.  The programs continue to grow as we get more participants.  At the end of our last fiscal year, our participants walked approx. 27,000 miles.

Dee Carroll United States |

12/28/2010 10:05:33 AM #

Selling a healthy aging lifestyle to the aged might not be as difficult as marketing to other segments of the market. Like the article reads, if we can get them to see the benefits on their health and their health care finances, the job will be fairly simple.

Boomers are savvy consumers as is, and if we pitch the "right" healthy aging dream to them. With auxiliary support from the govt. and healthcare system we can add quality to lives.


Sam Kipper United States |

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