Google Exec: Senior Housing’s Top Digital Opportunities

The senior housing industry has a problem: one in three people are uncertain what industry terms like assisted living actually mean.

Search engine data from Google reveals that older adults are using the Internet to plan for the future, but there’s a gap between what industry people know and the everyday customer. For senior living providers to bridge this gap and maximize their online presence, understanding how seniors and baby boomers are using the Internet is key. 

Speaking at the recent SMASH 2015 Senior Care Marketing Sales Summit in Chicago, Catherine Smith, head of industry in senior care with Google, discussed how shifting user behavior data sheds light on how seniors are interacting with technology in their daily lives—and how senior housing providers may be able to cash in on these changes. 

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3 Ways Boomers and Seniors Behave Online

1. Baby boomers are online—Seniors are already online, and more are using search engines and social media as a part of their regular lives. Baby boomers are likely to continue to increase this user trend, and senior housing providers should anticipate that the seniors and retirees of the future will be online. According to Google, 85% of people use search engines, a jump from 75% last year

2. The majority of adults are planning for the future online, but few are looking into senior housing. According to research cited by Smith, 71% of seniors surveyed said they used the Internet to plan for their future, but only 12% sought out senior housing options as part of this planning. That gap leaves a huge opportunity for senior housing providers to improve their outreach via online platforms, said Smith. 

3. Adults delay their research. When adults look online for senior housing solutions for themselves, they are more likely to seek out independent living communities. When searching for housing solutions for loved ones, people are more likely to look for assisted living and memory care. These differences show that adults may not look for housing solutions until it becomes necessary, and they are delaying research until medical or home conditions influence them to find other housing and care options. It also indicates that the options older adults want evolve over time, and those shifts could continue to change in the future. 

2 Opportunities for Providers

1. Mobile: Mobile phones are ubiquitous these days and 44% of seniors are using mobile phones regularly. As the baby boomer generation enters retirement, mobile usage among seniors is only expected to rise. Google continues to place more emphasis on mobile growth, says Smith, and senior living should, too.

2. Videos: Where some senior housing providers may be missing out is with Youtube and online videos.

“Most people don’t know Youtube is the second most popular search engine,” Smith told the Summit audience. 

Some of the top videos for assisted living and senior housing reflect how few providers are active in this “whitespace opportunity.” Smith pointed out that a quick toolbar search for “assisted living” in Youtube brought up only a handful of results, many that were several years old. 

From how-to videos to residents being creative or recreating a popular dance, there are many ways to get video content in front of older adults, Smith emphasized. 

Written by Amy Baxter

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