Elder-Hostile? That’s How it Felt When I Couldn’t Get Info for My Father

Well, my dad (a widower, age 83) needs to go on vacation. And he’s just not up to traveling solo anymore, or even researching and planning a trip. So, over the weekend I jumped on the Elderhostel (a nonprofit trip provider for seniors) Web site, researching trips to Charleston and Savannah.

The site is rich as can be content-wise, with visitors able to choose from summary or in-depth content on each trip. In fact, there’s so much content on the site that the only sensible way to search trip offerings (and to set up a profile once, so your future search results will also match traveler preferences) is to use the personalized catalog tool.

Here’s the glitch — I couldn’t register as the child/spouse/other influencer of a senior traveler. The form forced me to indicate my age (only options were in the senior range), asked for my health status, etc.. In addition, I couldn’t find an easy way to have a print catalog mailed to myself and to my father.

Eventually, I resorted to masquerading as a senior myself to get the info I need. But that was annoying to me, and doesn’t provide Elderhostel with the accurate database they’re looking to build.

Lesson Learned — Don’t forget key secondary audiences. Although it’s often overwhelming to look beyond communicating with your primary targets, secondary audiences are also important. In my case, it’s unlikely I’ll use the site again until there is a clear, easy-to-use point of entry for me. Or maybe until I’m a senior.

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Nancy Schwartz on December 19, 2006 in High-Impact Websites, Nonprofit Communications, Strategy | 1 comment
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  • This may not be an oversight or poor marketing but a calculated decision to exclude elderly people who need help navigating–both the website and the travel sites. It’s the difference between independent living and assisted living, and Elderhostel (and others) are the travel equivalent of independent living.

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