Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

4 Ways to Market to Older Adults

Magazine article Behavioral Healthcare Executive

4 Ways to Market to Older Adults

Article excerpt

There's a need in the treatment community for programs that address the unique attributes of baby boomers and older adults, but treatment centers will need new strategies to effectively attract this population.

According to a 2016 report from the Administration on Aging, the population of adults over the age of 65 has grown from 36.6 million in 2005 to 47.8 million in 2015. That figure is expected to more than double by 2060.

Older adults aren't immune to substance use disorders (SUDs), of course. In fact, the SAMHSA National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013 found SUDs on the rise in people who are in their 50s and 60s. And, according to the report, the percentage of individuals age 60 to 64 using illicit drugs each month rose from 2.6% in 2010 to 3.9% in 2013.

Experts agree that by adopting marketing and program design strategies that specifically speak to baby boomers and older adults, treatment centers can reach more patients in need.

Consider these four ideas.


According to John Dyben, the clinical director at the Hanley Center at Origins, the best way to market to older adults is to offer them separate programming.

"Right now, there are about five places in the country that have residential programs for older adults, and there's roughly 5 million older adults that need some form of treatment," Dyben says.

Experts say older adults are less likely to see the appeal of programs that include a wide range of ages and are less likely to open up during treatment.

At the Hanley Center, clinical leaders created two distinct tracks to treat older adults. The first, known as Boomer Recovery, is designed to treat the younger baby boomers who may still have active lives and careers yet could be struggling with issues such as divorce, professional identity crises, problems in their relationships or issues with aging. The Older Adult Recovery program focuses on those age 65 or older who may be experiencing more physical or cognitive limitations, as well as dealing with grief and loss of loved ones.

Once a separate program is created, it needs to be a central aspect of all marketing messages.

"One of the greatest pieces of marketing is just telling them that they are going to be with like-minded individuals and they are not going to have to sit in a group room with an 18-year-old. That in itself, we have found to be a tremendous tool for marketing," says Ben Brafman, chief executive officer of Destination Hope, Inc., based in Florida.

Dyben recommends working with geriatricians and other medical professionals to help the practitioners identify signs of substance abuse in older patients or taking part in community outreach events where older adults may attend.


Whether an older adult is seeking treatment for themselves, or a caregiver is researching treatment options for a loved one, potential patients will want to know that their unique needs will be met.

Experts say treatment centers not only need separate programming for older patients, but that the programming also needs to address the unique biological, psychological, social and spiritual needs of this population.

"The first thing would be to understand your audience, what do they care about and what are their concerns and their experiences within the category and then deliver a product and a service that meets or exceeds those expectations," says Debra Retoft, chief marketing officer for Enterhealth. …

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