ICAA’s Guidelines for effective communication with older adults




An overarching goal of International Council on Active Aging’s Changing the Way We Age® Campaign is to shift society’s perceptions of aging. As part of the campaign’s “Rebranding Aging” objective, ICAA’s guidelines for effectively communicating to, and about, the aging population is a tool that can be used to promote a more realistic and complete picture of what it means to become and be old in North America.

People communicate to share their thoughts and perspectives—and often to inform, convince or persuade others. Speech, imagery, body language, writing, hand movements and art are popular tools for communicating messages. Just as the population of people 50 years or older is highly diverse, so are the groups of people who communicate with them: marketers and advertisers; professionals working in health promotion, senior living and social services; teachers and program leaders; family members; health care providers—not to mention peers and friends.


Recognizing the need to match communication with purpose, ICAA’s guidelines are structured for multiple groups of users. “Part I: Guidelines for accurately representing older adults” is an overview of key philosophies to guide decision-making about attitudes, words and images. Part I is a useful tool because it brings together in one place the style guides, opinions and research of multiple organizations and shareholders, anchored in the experiences and viewpoints of ICAA’s leadership, advisors and members.  Part II will provide more specific recommendations for messaging and print. Part III will concentrate on phrasing and approaches when speaking in person with one or more individuals.


As the guidelines state, language is fluid and dynamic, as are the images and gestures used to communicate. As the association that has been defining and leading the active-aging industry since 2001, ICAA will continue to provide the resources that enable professionals, peers, family members and friends to effectively identify and respond to the needs, dreams, desires, capabilities and expectations of burgeoning numbers of older people.


Next: Basic strategies for language and imagery


Back to table of contents