Article Originally Published in Aging Today Newspaper of ASA.org
September-October 2019, Vol xl No. 5
There now is heightened interest in serving the longevity market, as evidenced in The Business of Aging’s 2018 study, Hacking Longevity: A Three Generation Look at Living a 100 Year Life (tinyurl.com/yxdsle49), which painted a landscape of opportunity for companies that can speak authentically to older consumers, and help them navigate later life.
Many companies have built products for different generations of older consumers.
Though the needs of and opportunities to serve this consumer cohort are recognized and well-researched, some companies steadfastly chase the youth market, assuming more money and opportunity lie there. Also, new companies and technologies tend to target wealthier older consumers—those who can pay regardless of insurance reimbursement. Companies’ offerings could (and should) have more wide-ranging social impact and greater results with low-income adults, particularly those of more diverse backgrounds who may be managing multiple chronic conditions, who are more at risk for social isolation and who may not have technology to assist in their care. Nonprofit organizations can participate in these marketing opportunities by educating young companies about the realities of older adults’ lives, and by working with for-profit companies to provide distribution and pilot programs, bringing new products and services to more vulnerable older consumers. Many companies claiming to target older adults have built and marketed products to at least two different generations of older consumers and-or caregivers, likely the Greatest and Baby Boom generations. But members of these cohorts differ in how they age—and in how they perceive their aging. Thus, it is critical that companies access key consumer insights, especially because people, as they age, can’t always relate to the brands they once valued, thinking that these brands no longer speak to their needs.
Market Opportunities and Trends Solutions for the Greatest Generation were designed for a “birds of a feather flock together” mindset—think suburban living and resort-style senior living—whereas baby boomers require curation: they value individuality and specialized approaches.
The personal health and fitness consumer category is growing. While older generations prefer group programming, the newer generations of older adults prefer personal trainers, individualized meal programs and customized vitamin and supplement regimes. With high rates of obesity and diabetes, companies in this space are poised for growth.
Experiences are king. The Baby Boom Generation ushered in the “age of experiences,” and technology has enhanced this trend’s growth. Sometimes the language of experience is “memory-making,” especially when it involves a family’s multiple generations. From adventure travel to food and wine to family vacations, older adults prefer to share experiences instead of gifting “things.” They also share these experiences via social platforms or within family circles. This sharing impetus extends to exploring family history and heritage, hence the growth of genealogy sites and DNA testing.
A preference for “little luxuries.” The new older adult appreciates not just peak experiences, but also top products— luxuries that span from gourmet ice cream to home wine cellars to designer bifocals to a meal in a celebrity chef’s restaurant. Inherent in all things experiential is sharing the experience on social media.
Home maintenance has created an industry of gig workers who provide services older adults are unwilling to do or can’t do. Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and TaskRabbit all cater to this market. The segment of this home services economy ripe for innovation is the home organization–de-cluttering business. Organizations do exist, e.g., the National Association of Senior Move Managers, but this is a fragmented industry. Young families don’t want their parents’ furniture, collectibles and memorabilia. And, as older adults downsize and want to get rid of possessions, there is enormous (and growing) market opportunity.
Home is the center of care. As the majority of older adults plans to age in their homes, professional homecare providers seek innovative ways to deliver care and services supporting the daily activities of older adults and their family caregivers. Applications for voice-activated devices (e.g., Amazon Echo and Google Home) that enable aging in the home are increasingly popular, as are services such as grocery delivery, medication reminders, care support and rides.
Products that have been used in the home for years are being re-engineered for aging at home. Consumers and caregivers are thinking about toileting and cleaning, maintaining odor control and keeping the home clean and infection-free. Expect robotics to assist with mundane in-home tasks.
Pet ownership is on the rise. The Baby Boom Generation has the highest divorce rates and the most aging singles. Pet ownership, as a means to avoid social isolation and loneliness, is more prevalent in this cohort. This indicates soaring sales of high-end pet food, pet insurance and accessories. This market also has created a service economy around in-home grooming, dog walking and sitting, veterinary services and more.
Financial services. The 2018 Hacking Longevity study revealed elders’ lack of understanding of financial products for retirement saving and, like other studies, showed that the Baby Boom Generation is understandably stressed about having enough money as they age. There is innovation around annuities and reverse mortgages, but these products have received mixed reviews, so selling any new versions is difficult. Consumers need more education to understand these products’ uses and value.
The cannabis market has a Wild West feel to it.
Cannabis and CBD for pain management. The biggest category of consumer interest over the past two years is cannabis and CBD. As states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, older adults are embracing it for pain management, help with sleeping and more. CBD products have flooded the market with little evidence of efficacy for all of the claims made. This category has a Wild West feel to it, as start-ups appear daily; there is no clear market leader, but revenue projected by 2022 stands at $32 billion.
Companies in these trending categories seek partners, just as they do investors. While it can take for-profit and nonprofit businesses time, imagination and key consumer research to create valuable partnerships, consumers benefit most from a careful development process. n
Lori Bitter is a marketing, research and development consultant, speaker and author in the Bay Area, and author of The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap (Ithaca, NY: Paramount; 2015).