Contrary to the common stereotype, social media is not the private domain of the young and short attention-spanned. Increasingly, web-savvy seniors are joining the conversation, a seismic shift that presents both challenges and opportunities for doctors with older patients.
Researching health information is consistently one of the three top activities online regardless of age, says Tom Seery, CEO of RealSelf.com. But generational differences in web usage are highly relevant as patients approach senior status.
In other words, Betty White may be “on the Twitter,” but few of her contemporaries are. They are, however, adopting social media at a rapid rate. According to the Pew Research Center, more than one-half (51%) of Internet users ages 50–64 and one-third of users 65 and older used social media sites last year.
By comparison, just 8% of those ages 55–64 and 6% of those 65 and older used Twitter.
That might seem like esoteric information except for one thing: Plastic surgery is also on the rise for older Americans. According to ASAPS, 77 percent of consumers ages 65 and older would be willing and open about undergoing cosmetic procedures.
The most common surgical procedures among the group, says ASAPS, include facelifts, eyelid surgery and liposuction. And, as the Worth It Ratings on RealSelf.com suggest, they’re more than happy to share their feelings about their results (albeit anonymously):
I am so delighted with my facelift and lower lid canthopexy, wrote yogajan. I am over 70 and am being approached by younger men.
Like many patients her age, “yogajan” didn’t get to be where she is without learning a thing or two about being an informed consumer. And because she’s adept at social media, she also provides a checklist for other potential patients offering advice on what look for when choosing a doctor.
Her advice — ignore fancy addresses, insist on board certification, etc. — is geared to consumers but doctors would be advised to read it, as well.
Why? Because with roughly 8,000 Baby Boomers turning 65 every single day, she’s going to have plenty of company in the coming years.
1. Be where your potential patients are going to be
According to Pew, older Americans, like their younger contemporaries, cite email and search as their top two Internet activities. Consider adding sharing buttons to your emails to broaden their reach and utilize smart strategies for paid advertising to make sure your ads appear when potential patients start searching. As noted above, more seniors are turning to social media — yet another reason to host a blog or forum on your practice website.
2. Once they’ve found you, don’t let bad web design drive them away
In and of itself, older age is no hindrance to Internet usage; however, age-related changes can impact memory, comprehension and visual acuity. We’ll take a look at website design in a subsequent post but suffice it to say that cluttered pages, flashy graphics and dense, jargon-filled text will not encourage visitors to stick around — whatever their age.