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Senior Living Direct Mail Best Practices & Examples


Senior Living Direct Mail: Best Practices & Examples

In this article, we collected 13 best practices for senior living direct mail, all accompanied by examples from Who’s Mailing What! database.

Senior living direct mail is all about generating leads — and there are always more leads. According to the National Institute of Aging, right now nearly 56 million Americans are aged 65 or older. That’s three generations — Greatest, Silent, and Baby Boomers — in that audience.

There are over 30,600 assisted living facilities in the U.S., and according to one estimate, the size of the senior living market is expected to grow from $94.51 billion in 2023 to $124.22 billion by 2028.

It’s simple to understand why.

Older adults, no matter their wealth or financial status, want most of the same things, like independence, productivity, and security. And keeping any or all of those depends on good health. To maintain a certain quality of life and meet their challenges, seniors are looking for the right community. Fortunately, according to the 2023 Lob State of Direct Mail Consumer Insights survey, 78% of Americans aged 55+ look at their direct mail the same day they bring it inside their residence. As this article shows, senior living direct mail, when it’s done well, is a great way to reach this diverse audience.

What is Senior Living Direct Mail?

Everyone’s aging journey is different. To help people meet both their short-term and long-term needs and wants, and at the same time, work with a budget, there are many options and combinations of services that are available.

Choices for senior living include: aging in place, in-home care, home health care, adult day care, respite care, continuing care, skilled nursing, independent living, assisted living, and memory care. To help seniors and their loved ones cut through any confusion and make an informed decision, your mail needs to make a positive impression, clearly provide information, and establish trust.

What Formats Work Best for Senior Living Direct Mail?

As in some other verticals, form follows function for senior living direct mail. Simple and quick messages are best promoted with postcards – usually 6”x9” or 6”x11” jumbo ones. More complex pitches with supporting materials or elements work well with folded self-mailers or envelopes in creating interest and developing desire to propel target audiences toward action.

Best Practices & Examples for Senior Living Direct Mail

Your direct mail can stand out by reaching the right prospect at the right time with the right message and persuading them and their families to act. With powerful words and compelling images, your mail can help you turn a prospect into a customer and community resident. All of these 13 examples come from the files of Who’s Mailing What!

1. Make It An Event

Rittenhouse Village at Portage direct mail

Hosting an event to get people through the doors is one of the most common tactics for driving leads for senior communities. Whether it’s a free meal, informational session, musical performance, or other event, it also sets up a tour where they can meet staff and residents, and learn more about features and amenities of the community. This May 2023 postcard promotes a community gathering at Rittenhouse Village in Portage, IN. The net proceeds from the market here go towards supporting a local senior center, further cementing Rittenhouse’s connection with its larger community for current – and future – residents.

2. Emphasize Savings

King of Prussia direct mail

The cost of senior living – and how to pay for it – is a perennial concern that needs to be carefully addressed in any marketing campaign. One panel of this November 2022 self-mailer by Anthology Senior Living in King of Prussia, PA calls the recipient’s attention to the $10,000 savings and reminds them of that in the CTA as well.

3. Educate Your Customers

Erickson Senior Living direct mail

Erickson Senior Living used to mail a broadsheet newspaper to promote, but in recent years (has switched to a tabloid format like this one in May 2023 for its Siena Lakes community in Naples, FL. The content includes articles targeting a broad audience (e.g., favorite audiobooks; new veterans benefits) as well as valuable and relevant content for driving interest in the community (e.g., how to design your new living space; fact vs. fiction of retirement homes).

4. Address Caring Family Members

Health Center at The Hill at Whitemarsh direct mail

In some families, daughters and sons often have an important role in helping parents find the right care. This folded self-mailer was mailed by the Health Center at The Hill at Whitemarsh in Lafayette Hill, PA, in December 2022. Targeting neighbors, it notes that “one of the best options is right around the corner” and uses bullet points to provide a basic description of the 3 care facilities available.

5. Leverage Testimonials

Rose Tree Place direct mail

Satisfied customers, or in this case, residents, act as brand ambassadors by putting a human face on your community. This folded self-mailer for Rose Tree Place, a Watermark property in Media, PA, takes that testimonials strategy literally. Each panel of this effort from October 2020 uses the perspectives of one senior (Elaine Lewis) and black-and-white images to talk about different aspects of life in the community.

6. Ease Their Transition

St. James Place direct mail

Let’s face it: moving can be scary and stressful, especially when you’ve spent years, decades even, gathering memories, and maybe (probably) lots of stuff. It can be hard to know where to start. St. James Place, a retirement community in Baton Rouge, LA, sent out a self-mailer in July 2023 promoting a “Senior Moving Masterclass” lunch to help potential residents sell their current homes and downsize.

7. Communicate Benefits

The Mansion on Main direct mail

You can spell out how future residents may benefit from choosing your location by using both copy and images. The Mansion on Main, an assisted living facility in New Albany, IN, included an insert in an envelope campaign it mailed in June 2022. Bullet points and bright pictures emphasize the luxury aspects of this offering.

8. Offer an Incentive

Buckner Calder Woods direct mail

One goal of many soft-sell approaches to senior living marketing is to interest potential residents in a tour using an event or some other activity to showcase offerings. But in this case, for simply taking a tour of its facilities, Buckner Calder Woods, a senior living community in Beaumont, TX, incentivizes target audiences with a $25 H-E-B supermarket gift card, as shown in this May 2022 postcard mailing.

9. Appeal to Emotions

Cottonwood Estate of Alpharetta direct mail

We like to think of buying decisions as only rational or based on reason, but the reality is the opposite. We make a purchasing decision based on emotions such as greed, fear, anger, guilt, flattery, exclusivity, and salvation, and then use facts to justify our action. Fear is probably the most primitive emotion, as it develops in response to a danger or a perceived threat. On the front side of this postcard example from June 2022, Cottonwood Estate of Alpharetta, GA taps into the sadness and concerns of seniors about financial security. The reverse (address) side provides reassurance, listing the various services (e.g., meals, utilities, etc.) that are covered by the community’s all-inclusive pricing.

10. Show Endorsements & Social Proof

Brookdale Senior Living Santa Barbara direct mail

Credentials and social proof help your audience build trust in your brand. In this September 2023 letter from Brookdale Senior Living Santa Barbara in Cape Coral, FL, the prospect is invited to check out its Facebook, which helps develop interest in your community’s personality. Its state license number is provided, and its Customer Satisfaction award from J.D. Power is displayed.

11. Highlight Deadlines

Park Square Manor direct mail

Scarcity and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are powerful motivators to act, as demonstrated by this postcard mailed in November 2022 by Park Square Manor, a Five Star community in Avon, IN. Copy on both sides notes the limited availability of apartments, and drives home that point by crossing out units that have recently been leased. To further prod prospects to respond, it also mentions the limited time 3rd-month free rent offer.

12. Ask (and Answer) Questions

Carillon Senior Living of Lubbock direct mail

Engaging an audience by asking a question with your teaser copy creates intrigue. And if you’re like Carillon Senior Living of Lubbock, Texas, it’s an effective way to create a dialogue with a prospect. This postcard campaign from February 2022 reveals the answer (from their own survey) as “Downsizing”, and promotes strategy events in the community, thereby setting themselves up as an authority who can address any concern or question that they may have.

13. Set Up Easy CTAs

The Army Residence Community direct mail

You want to make it as easy as possible for people to respond to your offer. So it helps that The Army Residence Community in San Antonio, TX, devotes a full panel on this August 2023 self-mailer to doing just that, repeating the free 2-night stay offer and providing an address and phone number to respond. And recognizing that target audiences are increasingly likely to prefer a digital channel, there’s also a branded QR code, as well as a website. You should expect today’s seniors and their loved ones to go online for their first look at your facility, so it’s vital to make a good first impression.

Get an Edge by Learning from Senior Living Direct Mail in Who’s Mailing What!

Who’s Mailing What! does not have a specific subcategory for Senior Living. Generally, when a related mail piece is scanned for inclusion, our algorithm assigns it to Hospitals & Healthcare.

But to be sure that you have the widest possible selection of mailings to view, it is best to instead search on specific related terms such as:

  • senior living
  • assisted living
  • retirement living
  • skilled nursing

Other terms are found in the second paragraph under the “What is Senior Living Direct Mail?” section above.

Final Thoughts

As we’ve seen in this article, selling seniors and their families on a new home is a complex process, one where the direct mail piece is only the beginning. Transparency and accountability — like larger type — go a long way in establishing trust with prospects who are being asked to make some big decisions and balance a lot of factors to make the right decision. Fortunately, direct mail is well-suited to a long sales cycle that may include multiple touchpoints to reach potential residents and persuade them to learn more about your senior living solutions and take action.

Direct Mail Evangelist

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