T he 55+ crowd is more active and demanding than ever before and, that means there are now more opportunities to deliver to them high quality, original programming that delivers a great return on investment.
Greg Milano, the recreation supervisor for the Los Altos, Calif. Recreation Department, said programs run by his department do well because they incorporate camaraderie, learning, activity and variety.
Tap into the social aspect
“They always want to hang out,” Milano said. “They are here for social reasons, so we start by getting them into the center and then go from there.”
Milano has found a great way of getting the 55+ crowd into the center for the first time is by offering free workshops or seminars, either onsite or at the nearby Los Altos library. This tactic serves as a marketing double-whammy as it reaches users of the library who might not be familiar with the Recreation Department’s programming.
Milano said the department uses this tactic about once a month, usually to promote a new class. Another way the Los Altos Recreation Department focuses on the social aspect of recreation program, is by actually basing some programs around social events.
Milano said the Monday Night Football program, which organizes weekly football viewing get togethers, is very popular with the 55+ crowd. Weekly lunches and other regular, casual activities also are popular draws, Milano said. The program also offers regular poker games, bridge tournaments and iPad and Mac tutoring sessions that raise awareness of the other programming and activities available.
Keep it fresh
Milano said Los Altos, which offers about 200 classes per quarter, adds new programming each quarter that is either geared to the 55+ crowd or is great for adults of all ages. They take suggestions from their best customers, teachers and the community at large.
Milano said the new Dog Grooming 101 class is a result of taking suggestions from the program’s best customers, and has already proven to be a very popular addition. Ethnic cooking classes, singing lessons and even a class on raising backyard chickens are also among the program’s successful new additions this year.
“If we’re not offering what you’re looking for, let us know and we’ll start looking for it,” Milano said. “We don’t want people to say ‘This is the same old thing,’ when they’re looking through our course catalog.”
As LERN recommends, Los Altos uses a new class logo next to each new class in every catalog.
Reach your audience Reaching the diverse and important audience is a bit different for every program, but Milano said his program counts on a regular newsletter to inform people about new classes, events and other news.
“They look forward to the newsletter, they love it,” Milano said.
Los Altos also reaches their 55+ demographic through email marketing, but Milano said they try to limit the number of emails they send each week.
Use what you’ve got
When you’ve got something good going, your program should capitalize on that and expand the course or event to fit the interest. Bocce ball had always been popular at Los Altos Recreation, so bocce ball leagues were a natural fit, Milano said.
“They are really into the physical, networking and social aspects of it,” Milano said.
Now, every year, the winners from the senior bocce ball league plays a big game against the winner of the Los Altos city league and hundreds of spectators come out for the event.
The recreation department plans it and provides lunch for everyone, MIlano said.
“Everyone loves it, they’re socializing and they’re not sitting down,” Milano said. “It’s a great event.”