Finding The Sweet Spot In Aging In The Era Of COVID-19

The senior population is getting more than its share of media attention now, thanks to the explosion of COVID-19 in nursing homes. But aging really starts in a person’s 40s, and many brands don’t seem to grasp that or the nuances that must be considered when marketing to older consumers as they make their way through life.

To get perspective on this changing market, and on its many sub-groups, MediaPost spoke with Jeannette McClennan, co-founder of McClennan Group, a digital agency that serves major healthcare providers and other firms marketing to this cohort.

Can you tell us about your company?

For the past 10 years, we’ve been a digital product studio, offering apps and solutions for major corporations. We launched the company doing work for AARP — it was the most intense deep dive into the aging process.



People are living longer, and there isn’t any playbook for it. And understanding those 45-plus people is more important than ever because of the pandemic. 

Do aging issues really start around age 45?

The thing that runs the gamut is the fact that 80 million people ages 45 or older have two or more chronic diseases: obesity, Type 2 Diabetes, or heart ailments. 

What does that mean in terms of marketing? 

We worked with AARP, doing a life map, to understand motivation and lifestyle and who has a gift or a passion in an area.

We’re tailoring programs so that if a Type 2 diabetic has to take weight off, it’s not ‘Do 20 pushups,’ but try a salsa dance — or, hey, 'Manage your asthma by taking up yoga,' or 'Manage your Parkinson’s by doing kickboxing.' It’s Gifts, Passion, Impact and Value. Our job to help adherence levels.

How are companies achieving this in the age of HIPAA?

It’s more complicated than HIPAA. We use Twilio’s SMS technology to create tracks — it gets very personalized. Walgreens is using a Twilio-like service. CVS. They’re not telling  you your glycemic levels are off. They send you a text message: Have you made it to your next appointment? Or your prescription is ready to pick up.

Fifty percent of scripts are never filled. Insurance companies have found that it’s cheaper to keep you well than to have you end up in the ER.

How can these skills be applied to COVID-19?

We worked with one company for flu shots before COVID-19 in multiple languages. We did a text-based campaign in using soap operas, little vignettes: A woman crying about you’re not getting your flu shot. We met people where they were, we spoke their language. We had a queens-Coney Island vibe. 

Do you specialize in text?

Most of our projects are not text only — we’re pretty agnostic email is up there. Ninety-four percent of 65-year-olds use the internet for email messaging. They’re using it in more traditional ways than millennials and Gen Zers. They love to share articles, photos and videos — it’s less about creating than sharing content.

There are very active seniors utilizing Facebook morning, noon and night. Others are tech-phobic. 

What are companies getting wrong in general? 

Brand marketers don’t rally understand it’s not one size-fits-all. So much of the imagery is of a little old lady with gray hair and a hat in the garden. Viagra was first to break out because of the nature of the product. It said that people are more vibrant and have an active sex life going on.

This sector happens to have large purse strings compared to millennials and GenXers — there’s more wealth creation going on. But they’re dealing with aging parents and have children as well. They’re the sandwich generation.

What about the 85-year-olds who are nearing the end of life? 

We built out a pilot program for Holiday Retirement. It’s totally about aging in place. You get a free tablet, six meals per week delivered for $750 a month. They went into 300 homes in Charlotte, Portland and Orlando. We didn’t target the seniors — we targeted the adult children. It isn’t just daily living, but tracking your eat, sleep, heal and move performance against a well-being scorecard.

It’s a delightful audience: We ask what their goal is: ‘You really want  to know what my goal is? I’ve never been asked that.’ The stories would flow: ‘I love swimming in the ocean,’ or ‘I want to go to my grandson’s wedding or bar mitzvah.’

I would love to see this get rolled out — it would be such a blessing in this COVID-19 world.




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