Jeremy Sy and Simran Gill write: In an article debunking the myth of universal loneliness and frailty among older people, the journalist Anne Karpf writes:
“It’s absurd, of course, to depict people aged from 60 to 100 as a single cohort (imagine doing the same for any other four decade span of life, say 0 to 40), or even to think of all 78-year-olds as alike. In fact people become more, and not less, diverse as they age.”
Acknowledging and understanding the diversity among older consumers will become critical to business success in the future, as older consumers form an increasingly larger part of the population. Asia, like most of the world, is ageing rapidly. By 2050, there will be more over-60s in the region than the total population of India today. In fact, according to the UN’s Population Division, by then there will be more over-60s in Asia than under-14s, thereby shifting opportunities for businesses in the region from the needs and desires of the young to the needs and desires of the less young and more worldly-wise.
A good first step to better understanding the diversity among older consumers is to let go of the notion that you can successfully study or target the “60+” (or the 55+, or the 50+, or even the 70+). For instance, in The Futures Company’s Global MONITOR survey, we find that 46% of “50+” consumers in Asia say they suffer from stress nowadays, but this number actually masks a significant difference among consumers traditionally thought of as “senior.” In fact, among consumers in their 50s, the rate of agreement with the statement (51%) is actually closer to that of consumers in their 20s (51%) than consumers in their 70s (34%).
Beyond acknowledging the differences between 50-somethings and 70-somethings, it’s also important to consider the diversity within each of these groups. While there will be 65-year-old Japanese women who are happy to stay at home and dote on their grandchildren and pets, there will also be women like the members of Japan Pom-Pom – a cheerleading group whose average age is 68, and whose oldest member is 78. Advances in medicine will make it increasingly possible for older people to stay active longer, leading to a greater diversity of lifestyles among those past the traditional age of retirement.
In the future, the companies who will profit from the opportunities presented by an ageing population will be those who are equally able to serve the needs of the happily retired 55-year-old and the desires of the 65-year-old who’s happily employed with no plans of retiring. Marketing to the 70-year-old first-time world traveller will be as important as advertising to the 60-year-old grandmother on permanent “gardening leave.” To succeed in this, the one thing that absolutely needs to be retired is the idea of “targeting” a group described as 55+, 60+, or 65+.
The image at the top of this post: A grandfather with his granddaughter in Mongolia [Image: Arriving At The Horizon under CC-BY-NC-SA licence via Flickr], via OpenLearn.