goldenWhat do you know about marketing to the older generation? It might not be enough. Check this out:

  •  According to the last U.S. Census, the FASTEST growing market includes people 50 years and older. Right now, that’s about 37% of the total U.S. population. By 2015, that should hit around 45%.
  • Nearly 30% of these people are on the Internet. Unless, that is, we’re talking about those in the top third of the income bracket. Among this crew, an incredible 80% are online.
  •  How much money do these folks have to spend? About 70% of all the disposable income in the U.S. Or around $1.6 trillion. Overall, they have a combined household worth of around $19 trillion.
  •  Of that, the over-50 crowd — just in the U.S. — spends about $7 billion per year online.
  •  They also buy 40% of all new cars, 80% of all new LUXURY cars, 74% of all prescription drugs, and another 80% of all leisure travel.
  •  By the way, this same crowd — of which close to 75% are grandparents — ALSO buy 25% of the toys sold in the U.S.

Now, I’m the last person to tell you that demographics are destiny. After all, to lump together the “older generation” is to include every race; every economic, religious, and political background; every level of income… you name it.  Almost every marketing niche in existence somehow overlaps with the post-50 set.

And it’s about to get even more diverse…

 According to the Census, between 2005 and 2030, the total market of consumers between ages 18 and 59 will only grow about 7% larger. Meanwhile, the market of people over 60 will grow 81%. That’s huge. Somewhere around 20.5 million more customers.

 With all those folks going grey — with such diverse interests and needs — what to sell?

 Creams, lotions, pills, and wheelchairs?

Not hardly. In the 1930s, it made sense to think of 65 and up as the age of obsolescence. Not anymore. If there’s one clear trend with the older generations it’s this: a whole new concept of what it means to be older has evolved.

 By and large…

 1) Today’s Older Generation is Healthier

 There’s lots of talk about how life expectancy is soaring. Hogwash. Science doesn’t expect anyone to live past 114 years. And that’s the way it’s been for a long time. What’s changed, though, is how well we’re living and how long we’re doing so.

Only about 5% of the older population lives in nursing homes, according to agingresearch.org. We’re shifting from acute to chronic ailments that may make life a little tougher, but don’t stop us from doing and accomplishing all kinds of great things, regardless of age. We’re also getting in shape and staying in shape a heck of a lot longer.

 And we’re discovering that heredity has less to do with bad health than bad habits. And that diet and exercise can even hold off diseases we might otherwise be susceptible to.

 If you’re marketing to this crowd, you’d better throw in adventure travel, fitness products, vitamins, dignified fashions and sportswear, and in general a lot more “younger” products and sales pitches than you might have imagined 20 years ago.

 2) Today’s Older Generation Wants To Learn

 Age-related memory loss and brain function is way over-estimated. New research even suggests it has a lot more with how you EXPECT to age rather than any actually mental or physiological changes (see today’s second CR).

 But more importantly, we’re all just a little more aware of learning opportunities today. And the opportunities are more accessible than ever before. That’s as true for the older population as it is for the rest of us.

 There’s a booming market for mail-order education, seminars, educational travel, and more. Heck, my own grandfather learned to speak conversational French at 76 years old. That’s better than I’m doing at 39!

 3) The Older Generation Wants To Work

 It too many cases, economic pressures force some people to work longer than they want to.

That’s a problem. 

But there’s also a huge segment of the older population that just WANTS to keep on working, regardless of an opportunity to retire. Some never quit, some volunteer, still more launch second careers. And that may help explain why products that teach new skills and let people launch home businesses can do so well.

 The bottom line?

Check your assumptions about the senior market. They’re a lot younger than you might think.

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