Over the past ten years in the field of interpretation, I have worked with nearly every audience: pre-schoolers, school-aged kids, pre-teens, teens, young adults and families. Each audience has provided a new and interesting challenge for me and it has been very rewarding. So this year, when the opportunity to provide nature programs for a senior center arose, I decided to take on this new endeavor with gusto.
My first task was to learn more about my audience. The old days of whipping up a simple yet entertaining blurb about an upcoming program were now behind me. I needed to learn how to market to seniors in a different way. To help me achieve this, I sat down with the director of the center to get insight into how to best provide programs for them. It turns out that what they crave is routine; knowing that the same person will come on the same day of the week at the same time was helpful for them. Time of day for this group was also crucial: late morning. To meet these needs, I set up the schedule to ensure that I would be there every Tuesday at 11:00am to provide a 50 minute presentation for them.
The structure for the overall series was also key in its success. I set it up so that each topic ran for four consecutive weeks. During the first three weeks, each presentation built upon the one before it. The fourth session was a field trip to a local business or organization that summed up the overall topic for the series. This format has allowed me to build a relationship with the seniors, which is important for this audience. Topics so far have included backyard birds, birding basics, native wildlife myths, backyard habitats, composting, water quality, and organic gardening.
To market these programs and ensure success, the program descriptions were tailored to specifically address the concerns of seniors. For the lectures, it was important to explain whether or not it would be held indoors. For the field trips, they needed to know how much walking was involved, availability of seats/benches along the way, potential sun exposure, proximity to restrooms, etc. By doing this, I was able to address Maslow’s Hierarchy within the write-up in order to best serve this audience.
Each presentation is thematic, drawing each sub-theme back to the overall theme of the series. I try to instill that nature is accessible and they can experience the beauty and benefits of it in many different ways. Whether watching birds at the feeder from their window, taking a hike, or planting some native wildflowers along a small patio. My group of regulars loves conversation, and they add a lot to my knowledgebase as well. This rewarding experience has allowed to me ‘grow my branches’ into a new style of programming. That’s the great thing about this field: there’s always something new to learn.