With a growing emphasis on population health and a huge senior population, it is more important than ever for healthcare organizations to take an active role in practicing preventative medicine to keep seniors healthy. There are many factors at play in the creation of a successful senior affinity program. The suggestions below are only scratching the surface, but will help guide initial conversations with leadership to determine if a senior affinity program is an initiative worth committing to for the long-term benefit of your organization’s community.
Articulate an objective (internal) and mission (external)
Prior to development and launch of a senior affinity program, it’s important for leadership to understand why the organization is investing time and resources to this initiative– short- and long-term. With a focus on population health, senior programs are shifting purpose from building loyalty and awareness to improving the health of seniors in their community. With that shift in purpose comes a shift in how programs are structured and supported by the organization.
Once an internal purpose is determined, create a mission statement to share with the community. Developing a clear mission will help seniors understand what they are joining and why. And, a clear mission to benefit the community’s senior population will also help gain community support.
Gather and articulate program benefits
Focus on what benefits your program will be able to offer members. Not all benefits require a monetary contribution from your organization or community businesses. Consider what your organization and area businesses already do to accommodate and attract senior patients and visitors and include those existing items in program benefits in addition to new benefits. From senior discounts at local restaurants and the gift shop to warm blankets and valet parking at the hospital, making members and potential members aware of what is offered is most important.
Remember to involve community businesses in the program– there are many that want to support a healthy and active senior community through discounts, giveaways or other incentives. The senior program wins by offering more benefits and the local businesses win by gaining another marketing avenue directly to seniors.
Develop membership/welcome kit
After joining the program, the welcome packet or informational content that you provide is their first impression of the value of the program. And, these first few impressions will likely drive whether or not they share details with their friends. Whether it’s a directory of benefits, an online health library or an upcoming calendar of events– use your initial welcome communication to inform and build excitement.
Programs, events and screenings
Before launch, your organization should have three months of senior-targeted events, programs, screenings or other social activities to offer to members. Activities don’t need to be available daily–or even weekly–but giving insight into what is available and how to be involved from when they first enroll will help ensure they get engaged and stay engaged in the program.
Don’t hesitate to include existing senior-targeted events and programs on your affinity program events calendar– from senior yoga at the fitness center to cholesterol screenings, variety and a full calendar keeps seniors active, which helps your program and their health!
Launch and ongoing logistics
Once your program launches, there are many logistics that need to be handled on an ongoing basis. It’s prudent to discuss resources needed for ongoing support prior to launch to ensure the program continues to grow without unnecessary obstacles. Consider the following:
- How will the membership database be maintained?
- How often will you communicate with members? How will you communicate– mail, email or both?
- Will you communicate based on specific requests/interests or generally to all members?
- Which annual community events will your program have a presence at or sponsor?
- Will your program host large events annually? Twice per year?
- Will your program need an ongoing paid media buy to recruit new members and announce events? Budget? Frequency of paid media?
- How will your organization generate content to provide health education to members? Staff writers? Freelance writers? Third party content arrangement?
- Which staff/volunteers will drive the direction of the program on an ongoing basis? Create an advisory board?
- Will operations and the clinical teams support your request for ongoing free or discounted screenings?