MindFit and Vigorous Mind are developing software packages designed as “brain wellness solutions” that provide cognitive exercises for improving memory, coordination and reaction times. Honing these skills fits neatly with the senior market’s refusal to grow old like the previous generation. Instead, they are making the most of their newfound freedom by indulging in pastimes previously denied them: almost a quarter of Vespa scooters sold in the U.S. are bought by over-50s – and a significant proportion of those are top of the line.
Baby boomers have dominated the nation’s cultural and political landscape for decades. Now approaching retirement age, today’s 50- and 60-somethings are the fastest-growing sector of our population. They have a longer life expectancy than ever before, and a healthy knowledge of the internet. This demographic is not what it used to be: reaching retirement age no longer requires a pipe and slippers but is a chance to search for new challenges and opportunities. The baby boomers are redefining what it means to get older, so shrewd small business owners will redefine what it means to appeal to them – they have a new market to target, and a new workforce to employ.
Whereas retirement was once linked with a gradual slowdown in lifestyle (and consequent reduced income), boomers aspire to make the most of their freedom – remaining active on their own terms and in their own time. A more relaxed lifestyle does not mean a relaxed attitude toward spending, particularly in today’s economic climate and diminishing 401(k)s. Conventional wisdom was that early-bird discounts in restaurants, beauty salons and movie theaters were enough to attract retirees, but today’s products and services are beginning to reflect the trend for positive aging and a more thoughtful attitude to the needs of consumers.
Going for Old
More and more products, such as technological gadgets, are being marketed specifically to older age groups. Software companies like
Recruiting older workers can also help to attract the mature market: surveys show that retirees prefer to conduct business with people close to their own age. They are a valuable staff resource too, particularly if you’re looking for experienced workers to fill part-time, home-working, transitional and mentoring roles. A report by JWT’s Mature Market Group found that, of the 42 percent who plan on full retirement, 70 percent still want to work in some capacity.
Keep in Touch
The trend’s online presence features dedicated websites like www.retirementjobs.com and www.2young2retire.com, which put businesses in touch with older job-seekers. Internet entrepreneurs should note that web services for older people are also thriving: www.eons.com, www.boomergirl.com and www.cranky.com are aimed specifically at users aged 50-plus and offer social networking, blogs, chat forums and search engines. Older people are “stickier” in their web loyalties than their fickle teen counterparts, perhaps making these sites a safer long-term investment. For businesses marketing themselves to boomers, sites like these can provide excellent vehicles for targeted advertising.
Some 65 million of the US’s 78 million baby boomers are regularly online (Source: CBS) – and according to The Nielsen Company, as many over-55s surf the internet as 18- to 34-year-olds. Further, the NPD consumer research group says that 41 percent of online shoppers on fashion and beauty websites are women aged 45-64. This creates opportunities for many businesses, and highlights the need for any small business owners wishing to target the active aging demographic to ensure a strong online presence (which may in turn provide targeted business opportunities for web developers). In addition to offering new markets to existing businesses, there is another advantage to so many active, affluent retirees: many of them are starting new businesses themselves, which often target other boomers. In San Francisco last year, mature entrepreneurs launched SilverRide, a company that transports older people in “driving retirement” to appointments, shops and social events. They now have 175 clients and plan to expand to other cities.
Small business owners – senior or not – will do well to consider the implications of a baby boomer’s life stage in relation to how they can apply their knowledge to the market. Smooth Mooove, which is based in Atlanta, specializes in relocating seniors looking to downsize. Launched by its owner after she took charge of moving her own mother, the company employs a senior-moving assistant and a project manager to oversee a comprehensive relocation plan. The level of service is adjusted according to the size and requirements of the move across a range of plans, and the company website promises to focus on the emotional as well as the practical aspects that such a move involves. Given that one in every six U.S. citizens will be over 65 by 2020, this is a company that understands its market and appears ready to serve it. Design, retail, supply, marketing, travel, and web services: there are myriad market sectors in which businesses can benefit from the expanding retiree market. With an American turning 50 every seven seconds, the opportunities can only continue to grow.
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