Senior Living Marketers Say Success Requires New Online Approach

While adult children of senior living prospects can be elusive from a marketer’s standpoint, connecting online and supplying them with information early on can be extremely valuable as they’re involved in the decision-making process more often than not.

Nearly three-fourths (73%) of independent living residents’ decisions are influenced by their adult child, according to a study cited by presenters during the LeadingAge Annual Conference and Expo held in Dallas.

“The adult child is getting involved earlier on. They are working on this [living situation] before there is a problem and before there is a crisis,” said Fran Palma, vice president of digital strategies at Farmington, Conn.-based Martino & Binzer, a senior living marketing agency that incorporates technology into its strategy. “They’re beginning to research and educate themselves; now is the time to provide them that information.”


The big question, said Palma, is how to reach the “elusive” adult child. “The truth is, we don’t find them,” he said. “They typically find you.” The challenge is to be there when they come looking.

More than nine in 10 online adults use search engines to find information, according to a May 2013 Pew Research Center survey, while 78% have looked online for information online about a service or product they’re thinking of buying.

“They’re doing a lot of the information gathering online and from a distance, which has presented a lot of challenges,” Palma said. “The adult child making a difference at all levels, whether actively participating or just trying to guide the decision-making process.”


More than half of Longwood at Oakmont’s sales this past year and in the last two years had the prospect’s children involved, said Lindsay Coulter, senior sales coordinator at Longwood at Oakmont, an affiliate of Presbyterian SeniorCare, during the session.

“In 2013, 22 out of 36 sales had an adult child as a heavy, heavy influencer,” she said. They generally were between the ages of 50 and 65 with a $100,000 or greater income.

After conducting an analysis on keywords, Martino & Binzer found that on Google’s search engine alone there are almost 8 million searches each month for senior living-related products and services.

“Are we giving the adult child information they want to know? In most cases, probably not,” Palma said.

Marketers can safely assume that at least 40% of those monthly searches are from the adult child, said Palma based on findings from mining his company’s database of more than 200,000 inquiries in the past eight years working with more than 160 clients.

Martino & Binzer looked into the database to find information on the adult child by assessing what information they asked for and when, and found that for Longwood, at least  37% of inquiries were generated by the adult child, with 54% from the prospect and the remaining 9% from an unknown source.

Adult children are usually inquiring after the cost of a community and whether there’s space available, the agency found. But a major challenge they face revolves around limited time, especially for those working full-time or in the “sandwich generation” who may still be raising their own families while caring for their elderly parents.

Many turn to filling out online forms requesting information at work because they can’t call a community on the phone. To capture a broader base of prospects, Longwood has dedicated a section of its website to adult children, including a page for frequently asked questions and one for cost of care.

Two of the most popular pages on Longwood’s site are “Talking to your Parents,” with about 20% of visitors viewing it, and “Request Financial Information” at 24% of visitors, said Coulter.

Longwood working on a few projects, including gearing some targeted content specifically to adult children. One route communities can take is to offer adult children the ability to build custom brochures, Coulter said. Children of prospects often uniquely understand their parents’ objections to moving into a community, and armed with that knowledge they can build a brochure aimed at answering or countering specific questions and concerns, print it, and give it to their parents.

Written by Alyssa Gerace

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