AARP Conducts Social Marketing Campaign to Motivate Older Adults in Richmond, Va., and Madison, Wis., to be "Active for Life"

Conducting consumer research on mid-life and older adult physical activity

The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP) conducted a social marketing project from 2002 to 2004 to promote increased physical activity in Richmond, Va., and Madison, Wis., two demonstration sites under the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's (RWJF) national program, Active for Life®: Increasing Physical Activity Levels in Adults 50 and Older.

AARP's project, called the Active for Life Campaign, was the marketing communications component of RWJF's national program. The campaign had two additional components: partnership/coalition-building and environmental change.

RWJF also contracted with two firms that conducted evaluations of aspects of the demonstration projects: Sutton Group on the partnership component in Richmond and Madison; and Princeton Survey Research Associates to conduct a multiyear, multiwave survey of the projects' impact in Richmond and Madison.

Key Results

  • The partnership/coalition building and environmental change efforts had mixed results:

    • Numerous partners in each city promoted physical activity and developed physical activity programming.
    • Both cities formed committees to influence public policies to improve the built environment.
  • Results of the marketing communications, based on the Princeton Survey Research Associates' survey findings included:

    • One year after the launch of the campaign, both cities showed modest increases in overall rates of physical activity among those 50 and older and higher rates of participation in community-based exercise events than was the case prior to the campaign.
    • Two years after the inception of the campaign, adults 50 and older in Madison maintained modest behavioral and knowledge changes. But the positive changes in Richmond's older adults after one year were no longer evident.

Most Requested