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Tips for Surveying an Aging Population

Surveying Seniors

The “over 65 years of age” bracket is one of the fastest growing demographic segments in the country and will be for some time. And while health care is a big spend category for this audience, their contribution also affects many other sectors of the economy.

Seniors are and will be, important customers for businesses of all types, and there is a need to truly understand what it takes to get and maintain their business. Collecting data from the over 65 crowd isn’t as simple as the rest of the population, but it’s not hard when you go about it the right way.

The Internet and Older Adults

Internet adoption among the over 65 group continues to climb, but even so, Pew Research reports that four-in-ten adults 65 and older don’t use the internet. One-third of those don’t, simply because they aren’t interested in going online, and many others simply can’t. Pew estimated that close to two-in-five seniors have a physical or health condition that makes reading difficult or challenging, or a disability or chronic condition, such as arthritis, that limits their ability to use computers or mobile devices.

Then there’s a mindset difference. Many older adults, unlike those who grew up with the internet, are cautious about providing information online, and question just how secure or anonymous the information they provide is.

Survey delivery to meet the needs of your audience

Researchers new to collecting feedback from an older audience need to re-think how to effectively engage with the group to ask for feedback. Depending on the focus of the study, relying solely on web-based surveys can skew the data. It’s not simply due to the fact there may be too few older adults with internet—but those folks may not be representative. Older adults who are comfortable with technology tend to have markedly different attitudes than those seniors who aren’t.

To reach a broad section of older adults, phone surveys should be part of the mix. Not only is there hardly anyone who can’t be reached by phone, but there are inherent benefits of phone interviewing.

  • The addressable audience is greater and the limiting “technology bias” removed.
  • Interviewers can immediately ascertain how well, or if, the respondent comprehends the questions.
  • Calling rules can be optimized to reach respondents when they’re most likely available.
  • Quotas can be met quickly.

Live or Automated

When you do phone interviewing, you also have a choice of live or automated interviewing or using a combination of both depending on the questions you want answered.

  • Automated interviews are ideal for follow-up satisfaction surveys, for instance after service was provided. The service provider can inform their client that they’ll be receiving a survey call, and the actual survey can be conducted through a fully automated voice response survey.
  • Surveys can also be initiated by a live interviewer, and then the respondent can be transferred to an automated survey. That approach works well for collecting information that someone may not be comfortable disclosing to an interviewer.

So, once in a while…remember to Dial!

Older individuals are going to make up a significant portion of the population for years to come, and their feedback will only grow in importance as all types of businesses compete for their disposable income. Due to the unique features, voice-based surveys are and will continue to be a viable way to collect information from older adults.

And, remember that you can also conduct multi-mode surveys without duplicating effort. The technology enables using the same questionnaire so that your data is consistent, and it can be managed from a single data set. More on that in another post….

Best Practices, Enterprises, Market Research, Opinion Polling, Political Polling, Voice of the Customer


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