Good writers keep the target audience in mind. But the default persona for a typical healthcare consumer tends to be a 36-year-old mother-of-two. In reality, the person seeking information for healthcare decisions is probably much older.
Older adults — those 65 and over — make up less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but they represent 40 percent of hospital admissions. Plus, baby boomers turn 65 at the rate of 8,000 per day.
Who are all these people, and how can we talk to them effectively?
No such thing as a typical 70-year-old
Seventy-year-olds are all alike in the same way that 30-year-olds are all alike — only in age. Education, interests, ethnicity, priorities and heath status are as diverse among elders as youngsters.
What’s good for the senior is good for the junior
While we steer away from a senior stereotype (don’t be ageist!), it’s good to know that some cognitive abilities and thinking processes do tend to decline as people age.
Older adults may:
- Process information at a slower pace
- Have less working memory to hold onto several pieces of information at the same time
- Experience difficulty in reading between the lines and drawing conclusions
These declines happen at a different pace for each person — might be at 65 for one person, not until 85 for someone else.
Here’s the great news
The techniques you use to make your content useful for older adults make it easier for everyone. Clear, concise, concrete, well organized, easy to scan, conversational tone, familiar words — everything that makes your web page, blog post or brochure easy to use for the average reader works for the older adult.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid toolkit gives you more points to consider when preparing material for older adults.
Now go picture that elderly reader in your mind as you write. And remember, that will be you someday.