Older Adults: Where do I Start?
Planning Your Project
Creating a clear and concise message requires a carefully thought out plan. Whether you have a few days or a few months to design your communication product you can follow these simple steps to help you think through the design process.
Identify your audience
You've been charged with designing a communication product for older adults but which group of older adults? Does your target population have a specific health condition? Are you designing something for a specific ethnic group? Does your audience reside in a particular geographical area? Knowing the answers to these questions will help you design your product and identify individuals to test your product with.
Identify your partners
Are you working on the project alone or are you working with a team of individuals? Your stakeholders might include program staff, writers, editors, graphic designers, reviewers, Area Agencies on Aging, senior community centers, and senior community leaders.
Develop a workplan
Before you jump right in, think about the deadline for your project. What are the specific steps you need to take to get the job done? If time allows, assign roles for each task. Here are some items you may want to think about:
Think about the needs and wishes of your older adult population. What is the most important information that they need to know? Consider prioritizing messages.
Also, think about the goals/objectives of your stakeholders. How do their goals align with the needs of your target audience and yours?
Develop a dissemination and evaluation plan
You should begin to think about your dissemination and evaluation strategy during the planning phase. For dissemination, think about how your older adult audience will come in contact with your message. How can you ensure that you reach as many people as possible? Gather input and feedback with your audience during the testing process and collaborate with your partners to generate ideas.
For example, you want to create fall prevention materials for a senior living community and you find that the residents like receiving health information in the mail. You could coordinate with management and deliver your materials to each resident's mailboxes. As an added step, you could also place your materials in the residential office or on the community board.
Your evaluation plan should align with your goals and objectives. Make sure you are measuring what you really want to measure. If your outcome evaluation goals for the fall prevention project are to increase awareness about falls and increase fall prevention behavior in the senior living community you might measure:
For more information on health communication planning and evaluation, see NIH National Cancer Institute's Making Health Communication Programs Work