Do Senior Centers Compete With McDonalds?
A few years ago I worked on a strategic plan for a Senior Center. The catalyst for this session was low participation in some of the programming that the center was offering. Although the senior center is a government run site, we approached the plan with the same framework that we have used for private businesses.
The staff had never been through a process like this before, so they were a bit surprised when we asked about their competition. Although this center and the estimated 11,000 others nationwide offer mostly “free” programming and admission it was difficult for them to provide us with competitors. We framed a question to staff “Where do elders in this neighborhood go to socialize and get together?”. The first response was McDonalds!
Whenever I drive by a McDonald’s around mid-morning there seems to be a table of elders gathered. Since completing this strategic plan I have helped a few more senior centers and many senior housing communities on their marketing strategies and it’s confirmed that the iconic fast food joint seems to be a gathering point for elders in most neighborhoods.
I am writing about this because I recently suggested to a gentleman I met at a Senior Expo attend a program offered at a senior center he replied, “I will never be caught in one of those places.” This was followed by the statement “My buddies and I hang out at McDonald’s.”
Senior Centers do offer great programs, many that I visit are packed with attendees and have features like fully equipped fitness centers not to mention a full plate of programs and activities. Many senior centers offer meal programs that are more healthy than McDonalds. Is the stigma of being in a “senior” center too much for many?