The oldies are coming. And they may just surprise you
In case you hadn’t noticed, there are quite a few older people about. We see them in cars, supermarkets, restaurants, shops… in fact, everywhere we go. What’s with these people? Shouldn’t they be playing bowls and dozing off in front of the television? Don’t they realise that the world belongs to the young?
Not so fast. Putting aside (just for a moment) my status as a baby boomer and slightly bewildered survivor of the counterculture revolution, I’d like to present a few relevant snippets drawn from 21st cent... show Moreury demographics. For starters, whether you like it or not, the world’s population is ageing. That is, our planet will soon be inhabited by more people aged 60 and older than children aged one to four.
And you know what? These people are largely ignored by marketers and similarly clever people because they don’t fit into the 18-to-49 age group – traditionally the prime target for anyone who wants to flog a product or service. Bad move. In a recent column, Robert Love, editor-in-chief of an American publication called AARP The Magazine, pointed out that the 100 million-strong Americans over the age of 50 would soon control over 70 per cent of that country’s disposable income.
He went on: “We buy two-thirds of all the new cars, half of all the computers and a third of all movie tickets. We spend $7 billion a year shopping online. Travel? More than 80 per cent of all the premium-travel dollars flow from our credit cards.”
Add it all up, said Love, and you’d find that Americans over 50 controlled the world’s third-largest economy, trailing only the GDP of the United States and China. “And still, older Americans are virtually ignored by marketers mired in last century’s obsession with youth. In fact, only 5 per cent of advertising is directed at older consumers, according to Nielsen, which has been tracking Americans’ habits for decades. It’s insulting.”
Why should you be interested in the views of a guy who edits a weird-sounding publication on the other side of the Atlantic? For starters, AARP The Magazine is the world’s largest-circulating magazine, with more than 35,4 million readers: this fact alone suggests you should take it seriously. Its editor launched his journalism career as a fact checker at New York magazine, then spent 20 years at Rolling Stone, where he learnt a lot from founder Jann Wenner and actually got to work with the likes of Hunter S Thompson, Tom Wolfe and PJ O’Rourke. So yes, he probably knows what he’s talking about.
Now that we have your attention, we’d like to mention a thought-provoking piece from this month’s line-up titled “The rise of the silver surfers”. Suggesting that affluent countries would do well to take notice of older people’s technological abilities and interests, writer Marelise van der Merwe introduces a global organisation known as University of the Third Age, or U3A – a fast-growing network of information-hungry, connected people that focuses on the ongoing education and intellectual stimulation of seniors.
A study by the University of Lisbon two years ago noted that age isn’t just biological; “it’s also perceived, which has a lot to do with how the mind develops and new information is assimilated”. As Van der Merwe tells it: “People are living longer, technology is developing at breakneck speed, and economic power is shifting in ways that occasionally defy the soothsayers.” Just a thought…
– Alan Duggan (firstname.lastname@example.org) show less