The grannies are grumbling – and who can blame them?

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Gransnet has just produced a report citing what people over 50 know – but many marketers are still failing to grasp. “Mature” consumers are not one step from the grave and only thinking about recliner chairs, funeral plans and who’s going to get the money when they’re gone.

We over 50s don’t come as an homogenous lump. In reality we’re probably more varied as a generation as any other. We’re interested in what’s on offer, but we don’t blindly follow fashion trends to fit in. Many of us have more disposable income than at any other time in our lives.

And for many of us, we have dropped the responsibilities of caring first for children and then older relatives, and we are free to spend our time and our money where we want to.

All that begs the question, why do we feel so dismissed? According to some of the respondents of the Gransnet survey, it’s because the younger marketers simply don’t understand this market.

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Will parents follow adult offspring into clean living?

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As the parent of two mid-20s children, I’ve tended to see them as brave but unusual in not being part of the drinking culture. What’s more, while one smokes (sigh), he’s also a dedicated vegan.

But it turns out they’re not at all unusual these days, and I suspect that this growing band of “clean lifers” will affect the way their baby boomer parents view their choices in the future.

Here’s why.

The clean lifer concept is one I’ve picked out from a report by Euromonitor International on the Top 10 Global Consumer Trends for 2018.

According to the report, the group clustered around educated 20-29 year olds are eschewing clubbing for more minimalistic lifestyles. With strong ideals they believe they can make a difference, and are saying no to alcohol, unhealthy habits, animal-based products and the need to impress through ownership.

At the same time, family is very important to this group, especially in countries like the UK and the USA, where the cost of leaving the family home has become prohibitive for many. As a result of this close relationship, adult children and their parents are choosing to share experiences more, such as travelling to new places.

It seems to me that it’s very likely that these relationships will in due course see those views and actions of the younger generation being reflected in their own parents’ behaviour.

Although my children don’t live with us, the subjects that concern them are constant topics of conversation when we meet. I’ve learned more about the rationale (and emotions) behind veganism in the last six months than I have in nearly 60 years. Don’t tell my son, but I may be converted over time – though it’s hard to know how to make meals interesting without meat and dairy when you don’t enjoy the heat of spices.
It’s an interesting question for the food and drink market though. If the baby boomers and more follow the lead of their adult children, will we see a downturn in the alcohol intake of older people? We’ve seen a move in many groups towards meat-free days. Will dairy follow suit?

Why do some retirement villages have hidden fees?

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How to spoil a good thing through complexity

A UK Law Commission report just out has made recommendations that should bring clarity to the cost of moving to a retirement village. That sounds good, but it does bear looking at more closely.

First, why do we need greater clarity? It seems that when customers buy into these schemes, they’re always fully aware of the costs involved. The homes within retirement villages are offered on a leasehold basis, but not necessarily under the same rules that we’re used to elsewhere in leasehold living.

Many retirement village owners charge “exit fees” when the property is sold or there’s a change of occupancy. And it’s this charge that is not always made clear and can come as a surprise to residents. The Law Commission would like to limit when and how these fees are applied and to ensure that potential customers are made aware of the charges early in the process.

However, the Law Commission’s recommendations are not see as stringent enough by some. Back at the end of 2016, when the draft report was published, organisations such as AgeUK and Carlex argued that the report didn’t go far enough. For one thing, the Law Commission didn’t appear to be interested in looking at historic cases, but only at new entrants to the market.

We took a look at the role of retirement villages as part of the retirement and assisted living mix a while ago, and our conclusion, as with many choices, is that it can be the right way to go for some seniors.

Retirement villages do not receive bad publicity on the whole, so it’s puzzling why some providers are almost bringing a poor reputation upon themselves by appearing to confuse, if not deceive, their residents.

As in many markets, reputation matters in retirement living. People moving into villages, apartment or other voluntary living will talk about their experiences with friends. Most of the target audience – late 50s into their 60s – are happily technology-enabled, and have all the tools to share their views with a wider world. And bad news always travels faster than good, so providers who are less than upfront about their fees are likely to feel a growing backlash.

Regardless of the Law Commission’s report, honesty and transparency are better long-term marketing tools than hoping to confuse customers for short-term gain. Whether or not the Commission’s guidance is taken up by the government, all providers would be well advised to think hard about their business models and how they affect their reputations and future sales.

Getting older women into sport with #thisgirlcan

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It’s fabulous to see that the reignited #thisgirlcan campaign from Sport England to get more women into sport is ready to go cross-generational.

Two woman over 60 features in the true life stories campaign. Catherine, 67, has joined a boot camp while Sue, also 67, has taken up cold water swimming.

The new campaign is covering a wider mix of sports and activities in recognition of the challenges of the barriers that come into play as women get older.

“This time around, we are allowed to be a bit bolder, by showing the lines and cellulite in a stronger way than we would have felt able to do last time,” campaign manager Kate Dale told Marketing Week.

She says: “Older women said they had strong connections to the campaign beforehand, but they spoke about the fear of being a beginner. At 46, you’re maybe a little bit less inclined to start something new, so that’s what we’re directly tackling. We want to normalise the beginner and highlight that exercise is not just about the physical benefits but also about personal development.”

The new campaign builds on the huge success of the original, which not only attracted huge attention in social media and over 1.2 million visitors to the website, but was also successful in changing behaviour. Sport England says that the This Girl Can campaign resulted in 2.8 million women getting more active.

It would be terrific if campaigns like this can go beyond encouraging older women to join in and try something new. These women need both the strength to test their bodies in a different way and the courage to be the oldest person in the room. If attitudes can change and other participants can learn to be more accepting and even welcoming, then progress can really be made.

Why retailers are mad to ignore the older consumer

 

Consumers shopping for clothesThere’s a very interesting article in Property Week* underlining my argument that retailers and providers of goods of services in general really need to start taking the growing older population more seriously.

The magazine teamed up with retail real estate loyalty and marketing specialist Coniq to take a hard look at whether retailers are focusing enough on the growing spending power of older consumers, and found plenty of room for improvement.

The report points out that the “grey pound” accounts for more than £320bn of all UK consumer spending and that the over-50s hold more than 75% of the nation’s wealth. Over a three-year period the over 50s spent 42% more on retail goods than other age groups and, very surprisingly, 66% more than millennials.

And yet it’s these millennials that are at the heart of marketing for shopping centre landlords and their retail tenants.

Some 80% of the almost untapped market of over 50s don’t relate to current marketing, feeling ignored or even patronised, according to BNP Paribas Real Estate research.

When retailers do look at the older generation, it’s often with very dated perspectives. People are living longer and there are easily two generations in what was once a general “old people” category. There are the “old old” who have lived through austerity and the younger baby boomers “young old” who have enjoyed times of plenty – and their respective needs, desires and behaviours are quite different.

The newly retired have more disposable income right now, and they’re spending it in areas such as travel, well-being, healthcare and home maintenance.

This latest generation of older consumers are looking for more authenticity, transparency and environmental responsibility from their providers, and are looking more for services than products. When they do shop for fashion, for example, they still want style but to fit their changing shapes.

According to the article retailers in other countries around the world are making more effort to provide services that appeal to the oldest consumer. That includes putting on events in shopping malls such as health tests, hobby workshops, financial services advice and even dating evenings. Some shops are meeting the needs with wider aisles and non-slip floors as well as targeted offers. Subliminal actions like turning off the piped music, slowing the escalators and turning the lighting up at quiet times are helping to attract and maintain loyalty.

What could be done in the UK? Experts suggest subtle zoning of shopping malls to make them more accessible to older shoppers who are starting to experience less mobility.

But what should be borne in mind is that there is plenty of difference between the newly retired consumer in their 60s and those who are 20 or 30 years older and they should not be consigned to a single category.

Equally, retailers and service providers ignore older people at their peril. As Ben Chesser of Coniq points out “If I told our clients we’d identified a group that accounted for 30% of retail spend they’d be jumping through hoops to engage with them.”

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A word about kettles and the older consumer

Monitoring daily electricity use of the elderly

I am a bit obsessed with kettles. Looking back on my posts I’m quite surprised I haven’t written about them before.

Today I’m prompted by a story in the New Scientist. It’s about an energy-monitoring system developed in the UK that could be used to track the use of electricity by an older person and potentially alert family if the kettle’s not been switched on at the usual time. The Howz system monitors how electrical appliances are being used during the course of the day and learns the owner’s daily routines. If it detects something out of the ordinary – like an oven being left on for hours or the kettle not being used all day, it sends a message to a nominated person. It can also detect more subtle changes to a daily routine that might indicate something else is going on with that person.

That’s great.

But at the other end of the kettle story, are manufacturers and shops taking into consideration the everyday needs of older consumers in their designs?

I ask this purely on anecdotal evidence from my household.

We have just thrown away a kettle that lasted less than two years. It was naff – indeed dangerous – from the start. You had to wait until the boiling had died down before pouring or water would cascade everywhere. It was hugely easy to knock the switch and turn the kettle on by mistake – and no obvious sign that it was now switched on, especially if your hearing isn’t what it was. Then it started to rust and and finally it began to leak through the bottom onto the base below.

So we replaced it with a similar looking model from another manufacturer. Much more robust, but at the same time incredibly heavy for older wrists which tend to be weaker with or without the added bonus of arthritis.

This kettle too has no visible light that it is on. At least, that’s what I thought. Turns out that both kettles are designed for right-handers, and as long as you conform you can see the blue “on” light on the side. Turn the kettle round and it’s nowhere in sight.

So here we have out of a sample of two, kettles that don’t take the needs of the older person or the left-handed user into account.

It would be a great advance if we could see more thought put into the everyday use of appliances for older consumers in general who are starting to feel the effects of lower mobility and strength, as well as the pioneering work on helping the elderly.

Supermarkets are beginning to embrace their older customers

There are great moves afoot to address the needs of older consumers in retail.

It’s a rapidly growing market and according to new research from AgeUK, going to the supermarket gives nearly 2.5 million older people a reason to get out of the house.

Over a million over 60s visit a supermarket every day, says the report, and a further 5.3 million go at least 2-3 times per week.

Age UK is calling on retailers to train staff to recognise older people who may be lonely and chat to them.

That’s something that’s built in to the ethos of some supermarkets already. Our local Waitrose has always been a place to find conversation at the till if you want it and no hint of being hurried. On the other hand, Aldi staff are pleasant but goods fly through their hands as they speed process their customers.

Just last week we heard about slow tills at Tesco. It’s an experiment in conjunction with Alzheimer’s Scotland to help shoppers with dementia, but could be of value to all customers who enjoy a slower shop with conversation and help.

Not every disability is visible

That’s not the only positive news from Tesco. It’s one of several supermarkets that are changing the way disabled toilets are labelled to highlight the fact that not every disability is visible. The aim is increase awareness of the many reasons why shoppers might need to use facilities that are more accessible.

AgeUK has more on the agenda for local retailers and businesses. The charity would like to see greater awareness promoted amongst staff of local services that can help, and store policies which help front line staff to become volunteer befrienders, making regular visits and telephone calls.

 

Does the healthy living trend include the older population?

Fitness after retirement

 

A recent report from Hitwise has discovered that healthy living in the UK is no longer based on fads or New Year resolutions. Analysis of searches shows that consumers are looking for long-term health gains in diet and exercise. The rise of popularity of fitwear and the rapid evolution of new ways to exercise underline the trend.

But is this just a youth thing or is it reflected in the older population?

Many of the growth activities highlighted by Hitwise are most popular with younger people. Crossfit, marathons and “tough mudder” need the speed, agility and knees of youth. But there is a marked growth amongst the older population for interest in gentler activities such as yoga.

Alongside greater interest in exercise is a change throughout the population in approaches to diet. People are looking for healthy eating that’s also easy – hence the rise of the ingredients box.

Where retailers may be missing a trick is in the exercise wear business. Lines from specialists and the big retailers are doing really well but continue to be focused on the young and slimline. Yet wearing comfortable, fun gear is a positive mood enhancer at any age or size.

Is there a need? Well, coupled with the noted rise in interest across the population for a healthier lifestyle is the continuing progression of advice that older people should keep active. Many of these stories emerge on websites such as the BBC as well as media providers such as the Guardian and the Mail – all popular places to find information. Just last week the BBC carried a story about the importance of moving to maintain the longevity of body cells.

Couple that with the rising average age of the population and wise retailers could open up new markets by focusing more on the older consumer.

Writing about needs and desires of an older population – my top articles for 2016

Writing for older consumers

From retirement to end of life, our needs and desires continue to change.  And for marketing it’s really important to understand what drives older people as a group and as individuals, just as with any sector of the population.

As a student, a commissioning editor, a writer and a participant in supporting older people, I’ve learned a great deal about what’s considered valuable at this time of life.

My top articles on quality of life for an ageing population

Maintaining a great quality of life is paramount, regardless of whether we’re 60 or 99. I’ve written with that in mind and here are my top picks from 2016.

Choosing gifts for older people

  • Gift ideas. Whether it’s Christmas or another special day, choosing presents for older parents and grandparents can be difficult. I’ve always believed that we should choose something that’s luxurious, unusual or fun. Not something that emphasises a person’s age like a walking stick or a pill box might. So I searched out products that I thought would fit the bill and here’s the result. Last year I also looked at tasty food and drink ideas and some lovely presents for Mother’s Day.

Where to live as people age

  • Are retirement apartments the next step? We see them popping up everywhere but for whose benefit? Are they the dream scheme for developers or a really good idea for new retirees? I visited one London scheme to find out more.
  • Choosing a care home. There is plenty of advice on choosing care homes available. What I wanted to do with this article was examine how to get under the skin of a home to understand the commitment to care. These questions are all about things I didn’t know and rather wish I had.

Retailers and older people

What makes life fun in retirement?

Reviewing products and services

  • Tea for two and a night of luxury. In January I was invited to visit the Hilton on Park Lane for afternoon tea and a stay in one of their high-rise rooms. Was it an experience I would recommend for older people looking for an enjoyable weekend? Here’s my review.
  • The emergency smart card. A review of the EIO smartcard that lets you upload all the information that would be useful in an emergency to a secure site that’s accessible to emergency helpers with a smartphone such as contacts, health conditions and medicines. My review has helped EIO improve their service to make it really valuable to anyone who might need help one day.

Real life stories

  • Arranging dad’s funeral. When my dad died in September I suddenly found myself with a huge number of decisions to make just to arrange his funeral. I wrote this blog partly to let him know what we did and why – and also to help others know what they will have to think about.

Need marketing or writing help?

If you’d like to talk to me about communicating successfully with the rapidly growing sector of older people, just drop me a line at kathy@wrightwell.com.

Are you looking at your products from the perspective of older consumers?

 

I recently had a great conversation with someone from a major retailer that really cares about its staff and its customers. Because of that the company has set up all sorts of committees of like-minded people to assess and discuss the products that the company sells.

But it seems they’re missing a trick. Because the groups are formed from employees, there doesn’t seem to be an option for those over retirement age to give their views.

Yet with an ageing population it’s really important that manufacturers and retailers start looking at what they sell from the point of view of older consumers. Does the product work physically for people with less mobility, poorer eyesight or hearing or weaker wrists – all likely to happen with age? Does it appeal to their sense of taste or style? Is it technologically unnecessarily challenging?

Looking at products and services from the perspective of different user groups is a fantastic thing. We just need to ensure that older people are included too. With an ageing population it’s too important a consumer group to ignore.

Image from GraphicStock