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Aging in place, living well, thriving at home, welderly, zoomers -- isn't obfuscation great?

Medicine turned into healthcare, doctors became providers, small coffee cups became tall, exercise became fitness, recycling became a sustainability tactic. So it has come to pass that politically correct eventually becomes...correct. And everything else, therefore becomes incorrect, inappropriate, or even offensive.

When we make words obsolete, solutions can disappear. We are at the cusp of this transition into political incorrectness with the word 'aging', as in products for aging people, aging consumers, aging baby boomers. We apparently banished the word 'elderly' last year. This year, assisted living 'facilities' (aka ALFs) are now 'assisted living communities' (ALCs?). And on the home page of AARP, you will not see the word 'aging' -- because 50+, the entry age for AARP members, is of course filled with people who don't believe that that is us -- it must be them.

Stop retiring language. I have heard this issue raised: How can we market our product that helps people as they age or as their parents age? "No one wants to hear that they are aging, so prospective customers won't see themselves in this market". Translate that: seniors won't buy if the product or service in any way implies that they are frail or in need. Their adult children might, because it's their parents who are aging, not them. Because of our lengthening life expectancy, AARP's membership spans as many as 5 decades -- all with different needs. This is a marketing nightmare -- but they are surely up to it. The secret...

Think about unmet needs and fill them. I think marketers need to focus more on the problem and solution, less time on worrying about reinventing language to hide some imagined (or focus-group described) unpleasantness. If individuals have a problem that is associated with, though not caused by, aging along the 5-decade continuum, then the product or service you offer can solve that problem for them.

  • Clearly describe the unmet need -- then describe those who have it. Your role is to find them or let them find you by specifically matching the terminology that describes what it is that you do -- through rich content on your website.
  • Clarify your target customer persona.  Is your target a 45-year-old woman with two children whose mother lives with her? Is it an 82-year-old woman living alone? This is best done through quantifiable surveys -- either yours or those that are published (see Trends).
  • Do identify what they like to do and what other sites and locations they might also be viewing -- and how you can feature content from other sites to enrich your site.
  • Do not describe or build a product or service based on yourself, your experience, or that of your grandmother. While this can be an inspiration for market entry, viewing your market as matching that  person's experience can mislead -- and worse, when founders have differing life experiences, their perceived target customers and capabilities may be different and difficult to reconcile.







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Love, love, love this post! I find myself doing the same thing when marketing to my senior clients, thus this hits home. That said, I completely agree with Laurie. This is spot-on and bookmarked! Thanks for sharing...

...that your target market may never get past them. For younger older people, 'aging' (other than for products that help you NOT have 'aging'), 'elderly' and 'senior' will turn them right off. That is why market segmentation and knowing your customer is a MUST. Just like it is for teens and 18-49.

Too many companies think they know all about older people through osmosis, or something. You couple that with the usual minimal budget, and you never break out of the stereotype. And sometimes one of your customers is the boomer child or relative, which makes life even more interesting.

Invest in some focus groups. Beyond words, one of my pet peeves is seeing great tech that someone didn't 'disaster test'--not just focus group concept boards or videos alongside the cheese and crackers, but putting the user groups in the room and letting them touch, feel and wear the prototypes--or better, study them using it in the home and elsewhere, over time. Belt clip monitors (fall detectors)--how many older women wear belts around the house, or at all? Chest straps? (Sorry, Halo). Wellcore's got an innovative fall detection system, but how many in their target market have Bluetooth-enabled phones? Does it work when the phone is carried in a woman's handbag? Etc., etc.

This is a response to Donna Cusano's comment, not to Laurie's blog.

Since Wellcore is cited as one of the examples in the comment, the implication seems to be that Wellcore "thinks it knows all about older people through osmosis...". Not to mention something about a "minimal budget".

To set the record straight, we at Wellcore are not sufficiently blessed to obtain our knowledge about seniors through "osmosis". Rather, we had to do it the hard way through live interviews of hundreds of seniors and caregivers, several focus groups in different parts of the country (which are posted on Youtube), questionnaires, and a detailed primary research study of features and pricing conducted by a noted market research firm with several hundred seniors and caregivers. To top it off, our product & service are the beneficiaries of a real life Beta test with several dozen seniors, using production-grade units. We live and breathe market segmentation, end-user needs, what-if use cases, senior and caregiver attitudes, price sensitivities, and much more.

A couple more clarifications: Yes, our solution works very well when the cellphone is carried in a woman's handbag (we recommend that she does, to avoid losing the phone). Moreover, Bluetooth is found on every modern cellphone, plus we only certify current model cellphones. However, the cellphone is not required if the senior only needs protection at home.

Thanks for reading.

Vijay Nadkarni, Wellcore Corporation


I think OOPS says it all. First I didn't intend the general comment to be at all specific about the Wellcore system. It looks like I reached for exactly the WRONG example because you and your company have done everything RIGHT. I am terribly sorry. Just by your going through the process of primary research and user testing you've done a valuable service to show how much research, consumer research and product testing is properly done before the product ever sees the light of consumer day. Believe it or not, there are companies that bring a product to market and do this only sketchily with small bits of what you have done (Laurie will know of whence I refer) because they feel that their case is so self-evident that it's not needed. Hopefully we have all come to a greater level of sophistication now.

I only went with the information on your website (I will also look Wellcore up on YouTube). If it isn't there, the reassurance that the phone in the handbag is fine for women and that the handbag can be at (x) distance--helpful for social situations where the handbag is at the table and the woman is nearby but not carrying it. Do you also offer another way to attach to the torso area if there is not a waistband? I suspect you have but I didn't see it.

Vijay, thanks for the clarifications. Over at Telecare Aware I've written about your company and look forward to doing so in the future.

I will now go into my corner and wipe the egg off my face. :-(


No apology needed! The energy and passion shown for the emerging aging-in-place industry by individuals such as yourself, Laurie, Mary and Susan is exactly what is needed to help this market take off. Keep at it!

You do bring up a good point that Wellcore's website is not as descriptive as it should be regarding specific product capabilities, and we will take make sure we address that.

To quickly address your question, away from home the cellphone and the user can be separated by around 30 ft, which is the typical reliable range of Bluetooth (also the dimension of a typical large room). When in their own home, the separation between base unit and user can be around 170-200 ft, accommodating 4-5 walls or floors in between. We do offer repeaters to extend the range. The sensor is small enough to be comfortably

tethered to a shirt lapel, bra strap, or simply the elastic waist band of sweatpants or shorts that seniors tend to wear at home.

Looking forward to engaging with you in the future.


We have always been taught to sell benefits and not features. But I think the first step is to identify a customer group and a problem they need solved. Sometimes we think we know what their problem is, but we are often, surprisingly wrong. So, one way to identify what your clients problems are.... is to ask your prospective clients or perform a survey and ask the following questions:

1. Why were you looking for a (name of the category of product you are selling)?
Why were you looking for a personal emergency response system today.
2. What prompted you to look for a (name of the categrory of product you are selling)?
What prompted you to look for a personal emergency response system today?
3. Was it hard to find answers about (name of the category of prodcut you are selling)?
Was it hard to find answers about personal emergency response systems today.

With this information, you will likely see similar answers, which will help you identify the problems your prospective clients are looking to be solved and find out if they are having a hard time in finding answers to these problems. Now you have the information to correctly find and mirror back your solutions to the problems the perspective clients have identified for you.

I agree that some words such as "seniors" carry so much baggage that introducing new concepts such as "virtual villages" may help re-frame our understanding and lead to new approaches to caring for those of us 50+ or better.
Rick Bonetti


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