Keep it Simple for Boomers & Seniors

Targeting Boomers or seniors with your advertising? Keep it simple. While that’s usually good advice for any kind of advertising, brain scans show a dramatic difference in the ability of older brains to suppress distracting information. Studies by Dr. Adam Gazzaley (then at UC Berkeley, now at UC San Francisco) found the suppression difference in older vs. younger brains was the key factor in memory formation decline in older people.

Using fMRI scans to examine younger and older adult brains during memory tasks, the researchers found that both young and old brains were able to activate their brains effectively for building memories, the older brains were far worse at suppressing irrelevant information. (A similar study using EEG, still under review, suggests that the difference in suppression is due to a decline in neural processing speed.)

In The Buying Brain, A. K. Pradeep cites Gazzaley’s research and suggests these tactics for marketers hoping to appeal to Boomers and seniors:

  • Keep the message obvious.
  • Use an uncluttered layout for copy and images.
  • Include some white space around the message.
  • On the Web, avoid distractions like running screens, sounds, and animations.

Simplicity is a sort of mantra here at Neuromarketing – see also Simple Guarantees Work Best, Making the Complex Simple, and Convince With Simple Fonts.

For those readers concerned about their own cognitive decline, there’s good news: a subgroup of the older adults studied did NOT experience the decline in ability to suppress irrelevant information, and Gazzaley suggests this could eventually lead to studies of successful aging.


This post was written by:

— who has written 985 posts on Neuromarketing.

Roger Dooley writes and speaks about marketing, and in particular the use of neuroscience and behavioral research to make advertising, marketing, and products better. He is the primary author at Neuromarketing, and founder of Dooley Direct LLC, a marketing consultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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2 responses to "Keep it Simple for Boomers & Seniors" — Your Turn


Mark 12. August 2010 at 9:10 pm

Of course other research has shown that younger people now have an attention span shorter than that of a goldfish.

So it may not be that they are suppressing information as it is simply not even registering with them.


Rich and Co
Twitter: richandcom
13. August 2010 at 9:46 am

Accelerating disinhibition is a challenge in 50+ brains — especially men. If a brain had inherited impulse control impairments they are made worse with aging. This is challenge we address with financial behavior in 50+ folks and retirees and why casinos target retirees.


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