The world’s population is getting older, and it’s changing everything.
In less than a decade, at least 35 countries will have more than one out of five people over the age of 65 – a first in the history of the world. Countries such as Germany, Italy, and Japan have already reached this phase and here in Australia we are at the tipping point of this demographic shift. There’s 7.2M people over 55 in Australia and that’s growing at more than 350,000 per year.
This is largely due to the intersection of the megatrends of decreased birthrates and increased longevity – more commonly known as population ageing. Bradley Schurman calls this novel period The Super Age.
The Super Age heralds in a new period of opportunity, but also challenges which we as a society must be ready to navigate.
We recently spoke to Bradley in “The Super Age: How it’s changed retirement forever” webinar where he shared insights into this emerging demographic and how marketers can tap into this megatrend.
“What we are seeing with ‘Super Agers’ is a new life stage. They are living past retirement, yet exhibiting characteristics of middle-aged workers. They are staying engaged for longer periods of time as productive members of society and they are typically working for longer, whether it is in a part-time role or volunteering. Whatever it is, they are engaged, they are earning money through active or passive income, and they are spending” Bradley explains.
“The second is they are physically fit and focused on their physical wellbeing. They are interested in staying healthy.
“The third is they are travellers. They want to get around the world, see things and engage. They are a huge component of the experience economy.
“And fourth, they are not stopping any time soon. Because of that, they are actively looking for products and services that meet them where they are in their lifestage and makes them feel part of the greater society. The second we start to ‘other’ them, that’s the moment we lose them as consumers” says Bradley.
The demographic change that is The Super Age is speeding up all around us and it is upending social and economic norms. Bradley explains that this will affect government and business, and touch all of our lives too.
18-34 year olds used to be the most coveted consumer demographic, but have you considered the 50-74 segment? They account for $6.259 trillion (U.S.) or 46% of total household spending in the US, which is more than everyone under the age of 50 combined.
“For all of the 20th century and part of the early 21st century, we’ve had it drilled into our head, time and time again, that the youth market – or under 50 market – is the most valuable market place in the world, but it’s really not.
“A lot has changed in this period of time. The fact that so many people are living longer, the fact that so many people have accumulated so much wealth, the fact that our life course has changed and people are engaged and spending and working for longer periods of time – that is a fundamental shift in the marketplace.
“When I was writing my book, there was a piece of information from Ad Age that just blew me away. They found that 500 times more was spent on millennials than any other aged group combined. But millennials don’t hold any wealth yet. How crazy is that! We are spending time and on this group of people rather than spending more marketing dollars on The Super Agers who want to spend, want to engage and find products and services that work for them” says Bradley.
We need to stop thinking about ageing as bad when, in reality, it is one of the greatest social and business opportunities in the world.
It’s time for businesses to re-think their marketing strategies and take a more inclusive approach. Older consumers are already purchasing the majority of new cars and they are a growing market, especially for health technologies and housing.
In fact, 46% of Australia’s disposable income is in the over-60s hands, 55% of all leisure travel was purchased by over-60s and 64% of new cars are purchased by this age group too.
So how can you harness the opportunity of The Super Agers? Bradley shares his top three recommendations:
1. Hire an older worker
“Hire them today. And if you can hire two of them, hire two of them, if you can hire three, hire three of them. If you can’t for some reason, get them on a focus group and listen to them. Listen to them and listen to what they say. They know what they want to hear. And if they don’t know what they want to hear, they will tell you very quickly.”
2. Avoid using standard stock photography
“Avoid when possible using faces because time and time again what’s in the marketplace is not very good especially if you are using stock photography – it’s bad. It’s really really bad.
“I want people to push back on those and actually look what later life does look like. Later life is working, later life is engaging in the community, later life is hopping on a plane and travelling around the world. It is not just walking down a beach. So break free of that whenever possible and use realistic images whenever you can.”
3. Challenge your bias and your language
“Believe it or not, bias and language slips in all the time. So ask your focus group, ask your employees that are older, what they think about the language that you are using because they will give you a clear idea.
“So I suggest to anyone willing to hear me, listen to older populations, pay attention to them because they want to tell you what they want, you just have to be open to hearing them.”
For more insights and actionable nuggets from Bradley, watch the full webinar below: