Friday, October 21, 2016

"Online Communication Has Its Limits"

Communication has changed dramatically in the past century, but we don't have to look back more than a few years to notice great strides in the way we reach out and connect with each other. At one time (when this country was in its infancy) it took weeks for a letter to cross the Atlantic by ship between Europe and the US. In the 19th century there was the stagecoach and pony express before we got cross country mail service down to about a week. People communicated by letter at that time. There were no telephones.

Now we can text and send messages to each other instantaneously. Nevertheless, as good as texting, email, instant messaging, hangouts, Facetime, social media, and other forms of rapid and immediate contact might be, there are many people who don't participate in this form of communication. For them, it's as if these methods didn't even exist. We need to take this into account when we reach out to people and make sure the method fits the recipient.

Many seniors - especially the most senior among that group - didn't grow up with computers the way most everyone else in the country did. They may still be a little distrustful of them, and there's a chance they don't even own one. Emailing as a option is out. Some in the group don't own smartphones either - just a basic cell phone.

In dealing with this older group, or anyone else who does not use the computer and options associated with it such as emailing, we must be willing to accept that other means need to be used. They still appreciate reading a letter, and they like to get their news the traditional way in the form of the printed newspaper.

For others, a text or email is fine. They appreciate the immediacy of such communication, and they generally respond in kind. One thing that may be absent with the younger group - people who really prefer to communicate by texting - is the ability or willingness to talk by telephone.

Most Boomers grew up with telephones, and the convenient way to reach people has generally been by phone. They use phones for their business (or did, those who are retired), and they use them personally. Many prefer phone conversations to the less personal and less connected form of talking with someone by email or text.

All this said, we just need to be careful that we are reaching the audience we intend to target. For instance, while many us of enjoy using social media, there are many people who don't. Posting information about what we do on social sites that our clients and customers - and potential ones - don't see or read (or even know that much about) doesn't help us reach them. We can still post about what we do and what we like on such sites, we just won't be reaching the people we need to be aware of our message.

When we prepare our messages just for people to see and notice online, we may be overlooking or ignoring a substantial part of our ultimate audience. If we knew that almost everyone that we are going to be working with prefers email and texting, likes reading blogs, and enjoys receiving emails, we could us this to grow our businesses. When a senior segment of the marketplace comprises part of our market, we just can't ignore their needs and interests by publishing electronically and not reaching them through more traditional ways.


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Steve HoffackerCAPS, C.E.A.C., MCSP, MIRM, is a licensed Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist instructor and best-selling author of universal design books. To learn about this and other programs for aging-in-place or universal design, visit stevehoffacker.com or call 561-685-5555.