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Massage Today
January, 2015, Vol. 15, Issue 01 >> Geriatrics & Senior Health

Marketing Yourself to the Aging Population

By Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT

Most people starting their careers in massage consider working in spas or resorts, working with athletes or working for themselves: but do they consider geriatric massage? Massage for the geriatric population has become increasingly popular over the past five years and I currently have a practice set up in three different retirement communities.

The statistics alone demonstrate that this is the largest growing demographic for possible clients.

In the 2010 U.S. Census, Americans aged 65 and older numbered more than 40 million. By 2030, their population is projected to reach more than 72 million, which will be approximately one out of every five people in the U.S. Those are impressive statistics for those of us who work with the elderly.

With such a large constituency base to work with, it is important to learn how to market yourself to aging clients. I have outlined some basic information on promoting one's business to aging clients in assisted living facilities, as well as seniors living at home. Remember that more than 60% of senior citizens live at home. We tend to think that most of them are living in assisted care facilities, but that is not the case. You can expand your client base by directing your efforts towards the elderly who are still living at home. My experience has shown that some prefer to have massage in their own home, rather than drive to an office, so having a "mobile" business can give you an advantage.

Business Cards and Brochures

When working with geriatric clients, it is still important to create some basic promotional materials. Business cards, brochures and folders targeting elderly clients will resemble your other promotional materials, but with information tailored toward the needs of this specific clientele. I have found it useful to always have copies of these items on hand - I keep mine in a small box in the trunk of my car - because you never know when an opportunity might arise to build up your client base.

seniors - Copyright – Stock Photo / Register Mark Your business card is one of the smallest pieces of marketing materials you will own, yet also one of the most important. It can be frustrating at times to think that this tiny little thing creates the first impression of you and your work for all who receive one. I find it much more difficult to write and design a business card, than to write and design a tri-fold brochure. Make a list of the key ideas or information you want to include in your card and brochure, and look at as many designs as you can to determine what looks you like or do not like. I believe the most important information to include on these pieces are: your name, qualifications, all forms of contact information and dates/hours available. Some information to include in your brochure might be statistics on how massage improves the quality of life for seniors, especially those living with ALS, Alzheimer's, fibromyalgia, Parkinson's and other muscular-skeletal conditions.

Informational Folders

Folders are useful for introducing your work at assisted living facilities, special events, businesses and health fairs. Your folder should contain the following items:

  1. Curriculum Vitae/Resume (one page)
  2. Business cards
  3. Brochure
  4. Proof of insurance
  5. Massage Therapy License
  6. Geriatric massage training certificate (if you are not currently certified, please consider it. You and your clients will benefit from certification!)
  7. A couple of short client testimonials
  8. A couple of complimentary massage certificates
  9. If applicable, any newspaper/trade magazine articles on your work or that you have written.

Social Media

When I first started practicing as a geriatric massage therapist, my promotional tools included phone books, phones and promotional postcards. Technology has revolutionized the way we communicate, making it easier and cheaper than ever to promote your business. Personal websites, Facebook, Twitter, Pintrest, and the myriad other online resources are easy ways to make your business available online. And don't think that seniors are unlikely to be online: the most recent research shows that 59% of senior citizens are online.

Area Agencies on Aging

Use the internet to research community, county, state and federal agencies connected with aging that could be an avenue to help you market yourself. Also, locate a few that could be a good resource when you or a client might need information related to aging. Some of these agencies might sponsor wellness fairs which provide excellent marketing opportunities. Many of these agencies also have online or print newsletters, in which you might be able to place a small advertisement. Advertisements in these publications are a great way to advertise to the senior community, but they do cost money. You want to make sure you get the most "bang for your buck," which means spending some time and money to create an effective advertisement. You might even have the option of discussing a trade with the editors: free staff massages for a discounted or free advertisement.

Special Events

Large, planned events like conferences or conventions provide an opportunity to generate a lot of business in a brief amount of time. While they do not consist solely of elder clients, many who attend will be over 60. Keep in mind that because most of the people attending these events are not locals, it is unlikely that you will pick up a large number of regular clients. Instead, it gives you an opportunity to develop a relationship with those who organize conferences in your area, and people who work at the convention and visitors bureau. For example, I know that when the National Police and Firemen Convention comes to Indianapolis, massage therapists will be making a lot of money that week! Other events to consider are setting up a booth at senior fairs, 5k races, triathlons or fundraisers.

Retirement Communities, Nursing Homes, Assisted Living

Locate retirement communities or assisted living facilities in your area. Make appointments with as many administrators as possible to discuss the benefits of a geriatric massage program at their facility. Offer several free 1/2 hour massages during your visit and make sure one is for the administrator. Remember to bring your promotional materials with you to leave with the administrator.

Many retirement communities and assisted care facilities sponsor health and fitness fairs throughout the year. Local organizations are invited to the facilities to hand out information on their services and provide demonstrations, if applicable. Representatives of products the elderly might be interested in also attend to hand out samples and information. These fairs are excellent opportunities to market your services to nursing homes. I attended one such fair and offered five minute head and shoulder chair massages. The fair lasted three hours, and there was a line in front of my booth the entire time. It was a well-organized event and I made a lot of contacts through it not just with the facility that hosted it, but also with residents in other facilities that were invited.

No matter where or with whom you choose to work, geriatric massage can be some of the most rewarding work to do. When working with vulnerable populations, we have a responsibility to protect them, in whatever form that may be. Gaining their trust is well worth the effort; one simple touch can make the difference between someone having a bad day and someone having a great day. I feel honored to be able to help the elderly live a happier life and I hope you feel the same.

Click here for more information about Sharon Puszko, PhD, LMT.


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