October 04, 2009: Planning for an "older" audience
1. Return calls quickly. Many older people who leave a voicemail message will call again, before you return the call, and may be angry they had to call a second time.
2. Provide printed newsletters and registration forms. Older people may use computers for specific tasks but do not always rely on them for information, communication, or signups. (And they usually don't Tweet).
3. Be prepared to accept credit card payments by phone, as many older people will not use a credit card for an online purchase.
4. Address older people by title - Mr., Ms., and, yes, even Mrs. - unless you know them or they tell you to use first names. They often don't want younger people whom they don't know addressing them by first name.
5. Older people often dress more formally than do younger people, even in casual settings. (Just don't be surprised).
6. Don't get too experimental with food choices at meals. Many older people have dietary restrictions (many younger people do, too). Low fat, low sodium, no spice, and no beef choices are often necessary.
7. You should always start meetings on time, but older people are more likely to expect punctuality. Many will arrive early to grab seats in the front of the room, so they can see and hear speakers more easily.
8. Many older people have mobility problems, so arrange meetings that require as little walking as possible. Make sure elevators and ramps are available, so people aren't forced to climb stairs. Buses should have lifts.
9. Consider booking meetings in cities with large airports, so passengers can board a plane from a walkway and not have to climb a stairway from the tarmac.
10. Be sure that meeting rooms are well-lit, and that printed and electronic information are displayed in large fonts, so people can easily read copy from close-up and from a distance.
11. If you set up a meeting room theater-style, leave more aisles than you normally would, so it won't be as necessary to shuffle across the laps of others to reach a seat.
12. Schedule meals at logical times. Many older people (and lots of younger ones, too) take medication on a regular basis and must have it with food.
13. Be sure bathrooms are available, accessible, and well-supplied. Older people use them more frequently than do younger people.
14. Poll your members to learn time preferences for meetings, tours, and other activities. Many older people are early morning risers but aren't ready to leave their rooms until they've taken medication and are sure physical ailments won't interfere with their day.
15. Many older people have a lot more professional experience than do younger people. Be patient and listen when it's shared. You may find value in what you learn.