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

More over 65s are buying on the internet than you might think

Over 65s are increasingly comfortable with shopping online

The Office of National Statistics in the UK has recently taken a look at how the over 65s and others use the internet and their interests in online shopping.

Now “over 65s” is a huge category, ranging over two generations in some families. So the differences between those in their 60s and those in their 80s is likely to be marked – not just in internet usage but in needs and desires too.

All that said, there are several factors that could entice marketers to take more account of this sector when planning their campaigns.

  1. The over 65s may use the internet for various social, research and shopping purposes less than younger age groups, but they are still significant. And numbers are growing.
  • 53% of this age group use email
  • 34% read news online
  • 31% use services related to travel
  • 23% use social networks, up by 8% from 2015
  • 45% have shopped online in the past 12 months, up by 29% since 2008
  • 24% have bought clothes or sports goods online this year
  • Around a quarter of this age group say they have bought household goods, travel arrangements, and books/magazines/papers and papers
  • Around 10% have bought food or groceries, tickets for events and electronic equipment.
  • Fewer again have bought films and music (including downloads), video games/software/upgrades and hardware.
  1. The next age group, the 55-64s, use the internet significantly more. Of working age, they are likely to have had long-term experience and be comfortable with the ways of the web. And as every year passes more people will enter the 65+ category, possibly with changing tastes and needs, but still with their online experience. So this “grey” opportunity can only grow.

Image: GraphicStock

Using property to fund retirement

Are people depending on downsizing to fund retirement?

Are homeowners selling up to fund retirement – or not?

The not entirely disinterested parties around the insurance and pensions market have been busy surveying the population heading into retirement to find out how they plan to support themselves.

Despite regular encouragement to think again and plan broadly for retirement, some surveys are finding that homeowners will be selling up and downsizing.

The Royal London reports that up to 3 million people are planning to rely on their homes for a pension. Even more of those interviewed by Aviva have the same intention, with six million homeowners over 45 seeing their homes as pivotal to their retirement plans. Some 69% of Aviva’s respondents say their homes are worth more than their combined pension, savings and investments.

Yet research from Aegon has found that 74% of homeowners would only use their homes as a last resort to provide a retirement income and that 53% are still hoping to leave their homes to their loved ones. In Aegon’s survey, 21% were hoping their own inheritance will help fund their retirement.

So who’s right?

There are plenty of grey areas. House prices across the country still show distinct differentials, so those in the southeast who choose to quit and move to cheaper areas could feel real benefits. For many though that may not deliver the hoped-for value. Steve Webb, ex-pensions minister, called it a “delusion” when launching the Royal London report.

There are also plenty of issues around whether people will be in a position to downsize. Retirees may find they still have family living with them who have been unable to get onto the property ladder but still need to stay in the area for their jobs.

At the same time, moving into purpose-built retirement housing is not necessarily going to release much capital. The sale price of a slightly run-down house and the purchase price of a retirement apartment may actually be surprisingly similar. And this market has slowed at least temporarily in the run up to the European Referendum.

Yet it looks like the trend may have already started. Legal & General’s latest results show its equity release business had overtaken annuity sales in the last six months, with the company selling more equity release products in the first half of 2016 than in the whole of its first year in the business last year.

Image: GraphicStock

Direct mail or online – how do you communicate with retirees?

Do older people respond better to direct mail than email?


It’s been a long time since I was asked to write a printed piece of direct mail, but it seems that getting in touch by post is still relevant for older people.

According to figures from research group TGI 35% of retirees are likely to renew a service after a reminder in the post and are most likely to respond by post too.

Asked about its marketing strategy for a report supported by Royal Mail, Saga told Marketing Week that older recipients valued well-written letters that were personalised and to the point.

Similarly Well Pharmacy (previously the Co-operative Pharmacy) says it’s found that older customers prefer complex messaging as direct mail that they can read, consider and file or throw away as they see fit.

What’s important here is understand the preferred method of communication.

Younger retirees are likely to have spent at least the latter part of their working lives immersed in technology and are completely comfortable with the style and speed of email and social media.

While it’s difficult to draw lines according to age, it’s likely that the older the age group, the more likely they are to prefer traditional methods of communication.

The trick for marketers will be to discern where their customers sit in this sliding scale and communicate appropriately. With all the data available within their organisations today, it would good to think they can research previous interactions with each customer to get that communication right.

Image: GraphicStock

No disrespect. Writing about older people


Four years ago I started editing a website offering advice and shared experience for the family and friends of older people.

The content was a mile away from my usual diet of B2B and B2C marketing communications. And here was the problem. It required a completely different approach in the voice that we use.

Most of my “day-job” B2B clients want to appear professional and approachable without being over-friendly. They want to be enthusiastic without being over-zealous. And the B2C clients want a tone that defines their brand and appeals to consumer aspirations.

This project is quite different. There are plenty of topics here that come under the label of “eurgh”. We believe we can’t ignore them, so we approach at least some of them with a  dollop of humour. After all, it’s the grimaced smiles that get us through some of the darker days.

The trouble with the humour is that it has to sit alongside pieces that are just truly heart-rending, and we never want to offend or belittle the traumatic stories that some of our readers have to tell.

So we take it gently. We need to show respect to our readers who have volunteered to tell their stories of life with ageing and frail parents.

We always aim to be useful. We want our content to be  illuminating, enlightening and offer an opportunity to talk. We treat people’s stories and their pain with the honour they deserve. But when we have permission to smile and turn on the humour to get us through, we do.

More older people are renting homes – at least temporarily

Renting property in retirement

The notion that older people are blocking the housing market for younger people by sitting in family homes they no longer need is perplexing. Family homes are not what young people want so where’s the problem? Or is it that if they moved out everyone on the ladder could step up a rung and then there’d be room for those starting out?

Whatever the argument, a new report from Saga suggests that actually older people may be actually competing for smaller homes in an unexpected way.

More older people are renting

The survey finds that a third of over 50s are currently living in rented accommodation. That’s up from 25% in 2011. Saga reports that the biggest increase in renters is in the 50-54 age group, and that 20% of renters over 50 are single. And Saga thinks many of them are waiting to get back onto the bottom rung of the housing market.

Why’s that happening? The rise in “silver splitters” is a likely cause. As people live longer they’re continuing to evaluate their happiness into their retirement years and divorce is a more common option. That involves selling the family home and splitting the assets. One family home doesn’t necessarily equate to two smaller properties in the same area, so people are taking their time to decide where and how they are going to invest again, if they can.

Downsizing on a single income

Moving into specially built retirement apartments or villages may not be an option. While these properties range in price dramatically depending on the provider, facilities and location, they are generally not cheap. One apartment could easily eat up the value of an entire family home.

Moving away to save money

Moving to a different part of the country is also often mooted as the answer to unlocking the value of assets. But anyone hoping for a pretty cottage in the Cotswolds or a charming cathedral town will be disappointed, as these have become destinations of choice for retirees. And even last week there was a surge of searches around moving to Scotland, as shocked pro-EU voters wondered if Scotland might leave the UK and rejoin the EU in the next few years.

Competing in the first-home market

All this suggests then that it’s in the small home market that older people may be competing with first-time buyers. If that’s the case, then calling retirees out for holding up the property market by staying in the large family home is a tad unfair.


Retirement is a happy place says study


In retirement people prefer swimming to walking says studyIt would seem retired people are actually enjoying life more, and that includes getting greater satisfaction out of stuff they were already doing before retirement.

Although work is viewed negatively, the researchers think it might be the context of work that’s the cause rather than the work itself. Many retirees continue to work part-time, but possibly all those pressures that go with work – like less sleep, lack of autonomy and time constraints – are contributing to a less positive view.

When it comes to physical activity, there is currently a trend to promote walking and active chores around the house as good forms of exercise. However, the study found that neither of these rate very highly with retirees. Running, cycling, swimming and surfing, and even playing with animals promoted greater feelings of well-being.

The study, “Everybody’s working for the weekend: changes in enjoyment of everyday activities across the retirement threshold” was carried out amongst Australian retirees.


Where are the wealthy retirees?

Wealthy pensioners are choosing cathedral towns like Gloucester for their retirements

In a growing and ageing population, the number of over 65s in the UK is increasing. And within that group the divide between the rich and the poor in retirement is widening, according to recent research from Experian.

That means experiences of retirement are pretty diverse.

For the more fortunate, good health and an active lifestyle beckon. With high disposable incomes the affluent retirees are tech-savvy consumers who are demanding in what they want and the quality they require.

With the north/south divide still very much in evidence, the place to find many affluent pensioners in the South East, although many are relocating to other areas to enjoy their retirements. That no longer means heading for the coast. Increasingly older people are choosing historic cathedral cities and market towns to spend their active retirements.

It’s a move that businesses and local policy-makers would be unwise to ignore. Experian estimates there are now about 1.3 million of these so-called “Smarties” who are shaping the areas where they settle around key issues such as local facilities and shopping experiences.

Older people and the natural world

How people experience the natural world changes as they age. Sensory perceptions, such as sight and smell, can alter over time. So how important is getting outside into nature for older people – including those living with dementia – and how can we deliver better experiences?

According to a review of available research amongst the over 60s, being outdoors and experiencing nature, plants and wildlife offers real physical, social and mental benefits for older people. How much they can benefit, however, depends on how they are limited by their own capabilities. And the research suggests that these limits are hindering people from spending as much time outside as they would like.

Studies suggest that being outdoors, in gardens or landscapes, is of great therapeutic value. The UK government itself has asserted that everyone should have fair access to a good quality natural environment. That access can play a key role in a further government priority of enabling people to live well with dementia.

The research suggests that beautiful views from a window enable many to connect with the natural world regardless of mobility. For those able to travel, access to a car opened up opportunities to get outside in different landscapes. Even in cities, being able to track the changing face of nature through community areas or even watching the detail of trees through the seasons brings pleasure.

In sensory terms, feeling the wind, hearing birdsong and taking in countryside or seaside fresh air and associated scents helped people to connect with nature, enjoy a sense of peace and tranquility, and raise the feeling of well-being.

For those who live in residential settings the ability to get outside in some way is important. As well as contributing to a sense of well-being, it helps people to feel less trapped in their surroundings.

And for older people still living at home, the garden or the allotment can still hold great attraction, although changing needs may mean a re-think of how the space works safely and can be maintained easily.

Those who can access transport or join community groups can benefit from tours across landscapes or visits to gardens and historic homes. Older people are core to memberships of organisations such as the National Trust and the Royal Horticultural Society, and while they continue to work to attract young families, it would be nice to think that they recognise the importance of their offerings to their more mature members.



Does your marketing take account of the growing number of over 65s?

Customer service feedback

When I encourage businesses to take account of an ageing population to boost their success, I’m not talking about getting rich quick from a captive audience.

What I believe businesses in any area should be doing is understanding the changing marketplace and making adjustments accordingly.

Take going online. There are around 4.5 million over-65s in the UK who are not online. Why? They may not have the skills, they’re very rightly worried about security, or they may struggle with the dexterity, vision or memory that makes online shopping, banking or using any services difficult. Or, like my dad, they may simply refuse to go any further than an electric typewriter.

So financial institutions, retailers, utilities and more can go one of three ways. They can ignore the changes in the shape of their market. They can take an opportunity (as many are already doing) to make more money by charging more for offline transactions and argue that they are simply covering costs.

Or they can take a hard look at how they interact with their market and make adjustments to win more share through a better experience for all. It’s a losing strategy to assume that everyone of any importance has a mobile phone and a Facebook account, or is even internet-enabled. More worthwhile is to think about which channels work best for different segments of the population. Which messages are most relevant to this growing older audience? How can you demonstrate that you are a credible provider while protecting your customers from those who seek to steal and destroy?

We’re always talking about the customer experience and how customers expect the best. Older people deserve the best too, and that’s a long-term strategy for businesses who want to stay around and build their reputation wisely.