As the Baby Boomer generation ages, it will be a disruptive demographic force in the U.S., not only because of its size (75-plus million), buying power ($3.4 trillion), but also because of efforts to avoid the plight of Tithonus. Tithonus was a character in Greek mythology that was granted eternal life, but not eternal youth. Boomers are shifting their focus from living longer, to living better.
Retailers and marketers must learn how to communicate to Boomers. Phrases like seniors, mature and aging are more likely to make them run away, rather than approach. They want products and services that accommodate their needs, sympathize rather than stigmatize and appeal to all ages.
The market has evolved since Life Alert’s memorable ad, “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” Today, products like Depends project vitality (right product for my lifestyle, for staying active, etc.). Ensure focuses on being vibrant and active, staying strong and rebuilding muscle and strength. GE Appliances uses the term “universal design” to describe appliances that provide easier reach. Personal care is an industry that provides solutions for combating aging, Anti-aging products appeal to a range of ages from the young (proactive skin care) to mature (slowing aging and/or treating the effects of aging).
Meeting the needs of aging consumers was once about taking account of ergonomic and physical changes. MIT’s AgeLab has done much to bring to light many of these needs with their AGNES (Age Gain Now Empathy System) research tool.
CVS Pharmacies provide retail environments that are more accommodating for older shoppers. Lower profile shelves, easier to read signage, carpeted floors, softer lighting and magnifiers at the shelves.
Boomers’ desire to live an independent life is fueling the “age in place” trend. This necessitates updating living arrangements over time. There is a huge opportunity in anticipating these needs that goes beyond simple ergonomics.
As the health care ecosystem continues to evolve, retail clinics that offer a relevant menu of health care offerings could play a large role for Boomers. Given the acceptance of technology among Baby Boomers, retailers that provide online and mobile access, tools and service solutions will benefit from reshaping and reinforcing relationships with Boomers. Successful courting of Boomers entails understanding Boomers are not complacent, but rather proactive in their battle to prevent and/or deal with the effects of aging—living better. In Boomers’ view, aging can be more engaging, more connected, more purposeful and provide a greater legacy than ever before with the aid of technology and design. Consider the disruptive demographics of aging a call to brands and retailers to innovate.