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5 tips and 1 Cardinal Rule: Event Planning for Diverse Seniors

Planning events can be stressful and challenging, which is why focusing on the needs of your audience is fundamental. The more you know about your participants, the easier it is for you to understand and anticipate their needs. This is especially true for events targeting older adults. 

Here are 5 tips to help you plan for a successful event:

Location, location, location.

The venue of the meeting or event is extremely important when it comes to Latino seniors. This key decision alone could make or break your event. When choosing a venue, you should consider the following:

  • The venue location should be as close as possible to the senior centers or senior housing the participants are coming from. In some cases, it is even better to host the event or activity on-site, if possible. Older adults often cannot move far on their own and would also prefer to be comfortable in their homes or senior centers.
  • The venue should be as accesible as possible: ramps, elevators, and handrails. Facilities located on a ground floor level where elevators aren’t necessary are optimal. Distance from the entrance to the event space should also be considered. Long walking distances are tiring and difficult for some seniors. Lastly, proximity of bathrooms to the event space is extremely important.

Determine the best time and date.

When deciding on a date and time, consider the seniors’ weekly schedules. For example, if you are inviting older adults from a local senior center or housing unit, talk to the program manager or administrator. Older adults who regularly attend a center or are residents of a senior-living community are used to a schedule of programmed events and activities. So, they would rather not miss out bingo or crafts day to attend an event they aren’t familiar with. As a rule of thumb, the best time of the day to host senior-centered events is in the morning, when they are most active.

Ensure your content and information is age sensitive and culturally and linguistically appropriate.

Whatever message or information you want to convey must be easy and appropriate for seniors to read and understand. Fact sheets, brochures, flyers and other printed materials should avoid hard-to-read fonts (narrow, thick, handwriting or cursive); small print (12 points or lower); bold, underlined, and italicized type face; and bright, neon colors.

Font Example-01

Any printed information should be available in both English and Spanish. Never assume which language they prefer or how well they speak it. Language is a sensitive issue, and many can easily get offended if they cannot understand everything being said or distributed at the event. Spanish translations shouldn’t be literal and should use standard Spanish vocabulary. Avoid slangs and expressions that could be misinterpreted or confusing.

Other tips:

  • Bi-fold brochures are easier to read than tri-fold brochures.
  • Print English and Spanish versions of a one-page flyer front and back on a single page. This saves paper and allows seniors to read it in the language they prefer.
  • Keep language short and concise.
  • Use one or two good images if possible.
  • Keep designs simple and clean.

Provide transportation. 

Many senior centers and seniors homes don’t provide or have consistent transportation. And, only a small percentage of seniors can drive and/or have a loved one who can take them to an event. To maximize participation and interest, consider contracting a transportation company to shuttle between a pick-up location and the venue. These vehicles should be handicap accessible and there should be a coordinator or a person on-board to supervise at all times. Also, be sure to have staff waiting for seniors at the entrance to greet them and ensure they make it to the event space as swiftly and comfortably as possible.

Serve an appetizing and appropriate meal.

Food and beverage choices are important when it comes to event for seniors. It is more likely than not that the majority of older adults have specific dietary restrictions and special diets due to illnesses or chronic conditions like diabetes and hear disease. Any meals served should be both healthy, filling, and appealing. (They may be skipping a meal or snack at the senior center to attend your event.) But most importantly, these meals should be easy for them to eat. Avoid hard breads or crunchy, stringy foods that can it harder for them to chew and swallow. Also, Latino seniors are used to eating foods and flavors from their native countries, such as avocado, potatoes, rice, and beans. Whole grain rice versus white, steamed chicken versus fried, and baked potatoes versus french fries are culturally appropriate and healthy options. Beverages should be low in sugar and without carbonation. Bottled water, unsweetened tea (with raw sugar available), hot tea, coffee, and natural juices are good options. In addition, whenever possible we ensure that each table has a basket with fresh fruit or granola snacks so they have a snack to take home. (In some of the regions we have been to, seniors experience high levels of threat of hunger. In fact, many eat only once or twice a day.)

And, the cardinal rule of event planning for seniors: all the effort and care you put into making the event comfortable, interesting, and enjoyable for them will make their day.

Seniors often times experience isolation and loneliness even when they live in a community or attend a community center. Being kind and showing an interest in them, their thoughts, and their needs makes them feel special and cared about.

Hopefully these tips are helpful in your efforts. Happy event planning!