Ageism in Healthcare Marketing

Remember that first time you got a “yes ma’am” or “yes sir”?  It was a sobering moment that signaled you had reached a “certain age.” That’s a rather innocuous example of what is really a looming problem in healthcare today: ageism. According to a recent study, one in five adults over the age of 50 (yes 50!) reported age-related discrimination in the healthcare setting.

Knight Marketing is a healthcare agency located in Sarasota, Florida. We might as well be called that capital county of seniors as we have more 85+ year olds than any other county in Florida and our share of 65+ people tops 30 percent of the local population. That makes this area a great incubator for a lot of healthcare companies. As an agency, we’ve been working with companies that serve the senior markets for many years.


Catering and marketing to a senior population is not just something we have to do in our region, it’s a nationwide must-do. Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and today nearly 15 percent of the U.S. population has reached that milestone. Given the increased need for healthcare as a person ages, it’s clearly an issue that anyone in healthcare must pay attention to.

Some healthcare providers are putting real thought and real dollars behind initiatives to attract a senior population, including remodeling an emergency department to be more senior-friendly, offering senior loyalty programs, and creating senior-specific events and workshops. All these initiatives require marketing.


Ensure you’re reaching your target demographic in the most effective way. Here are few ways to be sensitive to this group as whole.

  1. Font size. It’s a simple but often overlooked aspect – make sure the font size is large enough and dark enough on collateral and on Web pages.
  2. Audio. If you have video or audio on your site, include text or subtitles; hearing loss is a common age-related issue.
  3. Mind the Media. Yes, more seniors have cell phones and computers, but they also rely heavily on newspapers, TV and radio. You need presense in a variety of media to capture and maintain a senior audience.
  4. Snail Mail. Direct mail is a useful way to communicate with this group. Keep the subject matter clear and narrowly focused and the font size large.

Print ad for Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson
Print ad for Kobernick-Anchin-Benderson, produced by Knight Marketing.

Seniors grew up without the Internet to research their providers. Most people had one physician for most of their health concerns. Physicians were considered authoritarian experts as well as caring patient-centric healthcare providers. It’s a different paradigm now. But relationships still matter a lot. As marketers we can help build and solidify doctor-patient relationships with educational and informational materials that speak directly to seniors. By being sensitive to what seniors need in terms of formatting as well as content, we’ll help combat the growing problem of age discrimination in health care.

To learn more about how to effectively communicate to your target audience and what your future holds as a healthcare marketer, download our free white paper and learn about the five things you must be doing now

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