Older Consumers Embrace the “F” Word
The counterintuitive primary drive of older people, dating after 60, the power of older female consumers, and how to overcome the barrier of being "overqualified."
Hello there and welcome to this week’s Longevity Gains newsletter!
A year ago when I was in the planning process for launching Longevity Gains, I naturally created a roadmap of the topics I wanted to cover. This included initial articles and podcast topics.
With the podcast, I had things like status and nostalgia that we’ve already covered. Last on the list was one of the most important and sadly counterintuitive things I wanted to cover, because it reframes the experience that older consumers seek compared with how the world perceives them.
Everyone ages their entire lives. From the moment you’re born, the aging process begins – and if you’re lucky it keeps going for a long time.
And yet it’s only people over 50 who are defined as aging. Suddenly, you’re no longer living in the eyes of advertisers, businesses, and society at large – just aging.
The reality is that life past the age of 50 becomes happier and better than ever. And yes, that means that older people just want to have fun.
But before I could address this strong desire for fun, Joseph Caughlin beat me to it. He’s the Director of the M.I.T. AgeLab and the author of The Longevity Economy, which is the book that put me on this path back in the fall of 2018.
As we grow older, is our primary goal to stay alive, or to have a life?
A sense of fun can drive people to seek out new, virtuous horizons like healthy behaviors and social living. Meanwhile, a dour, even anhedonic approach to addressing serious needs can lead to poor uptake of, and adherence to, potentially lifesaving products, including senior housing, home modifications, medicines, and health and communications technologies.
Over at Further, we’re constantly injecting fun into content for our audience of people at midlife, even when talking about serious issues like retirement or caregiving for our parents. And you should consider doing the same with your own content and marketing messages.
Older people are not defined by the process of getting ever older. Rather, they’re looking to live life to the fullest extent possible – and a boring, ultra-serious tone isn’t any more appealing to them (us) than it would be to younger people.
Putting The 'F' Word Into Aging (LinkedIn)
The Other “F” Word
If you were disappointed that the “F’ word in the headline was “fun,” an exploration of dating after 60 may be more up your alley. Of course, people date for more reasons than sex, but given the continued rise in sexually-transmitted diseases among older adults, it seems to be a prime feature.
Now, I’m not suggesting the world needs another dating app aimed only at older people. But “looking for love” is an important part of life for singles at a later stage of life, so content strategies that embrace the topic are important.
The main reason to read this article, though, is to better understand prevailing attitudes among older people, both in general and with respect to dating. You may find these attitudes surprising, and yet definitely useful for your marketing efforts.
For example, Sindy Oh, a licensed clinical psychologist in Los Angeles, said she was struck by how different dating can be for her older clients because they have a much stronger sense of self. “They have accepted who they are, and they are presenting themselves as is,” she said.
You’ll see the same sentiment expressed from the participants themselves:
“One thing I quickly discovered is ‘Wow, you really don’t have to play any games at this point in life,’” said David, who lives in California. “I don’t have to tell any story that’s not true about me. And neither do they.”
And yes, there’s the “mind blowing sex,” quoting again from the article. It’s time to shatter even more misconceptions about older people, chief among them that the other “F” word is still a whole lotta fun.
Dating After 60: A Lot of Roses, Some Thorns (New York Times gift article)
I Am (Older) Woman, Hear Me Roar
We’ve already covered the importance of older women to the longevity economy. Just one of those reasons is that women 45+ make 50.3% of all purchasing decisions, and that percentage will continue to increase as we move toward a society where older women play a vital role.
While Madison Avenue is showing some limited signs of awakening from its youth-induced snooze, it’s still surprising they’re not jumping up and actively chasing older women:
Older female consumers also represent a valuable, untapped and rapidly expanding market. (Globally, the number of over-50 women is expected to grow by 70 percent by 2050, according to AARP.) Many female boomers and Gen Xers have independent incomes, having attained higher levels of education than past generations and worked all their lives.
While the kids at the advertising agencies figure it out, older women are taking to social media and doing it for themselves. And it’s working quite well:
While the advertising industry remains fixated on the 18-to-35 age group as a prime target, over-50 influencers like Glover have recently garnered thousands and sometimes more than 1 million followers, both within their demographic and far beyond. And brands are beginning to take notice, with more and more companies reaching out to older influencers to form lucrative partnerships.
While older women influencers provide a proof of concept using social media, they’re also destroying a deeply held myth. Madison Avenue has long believed that if you cater to older people, you’ll lose the interest of younger generations.
But it turns out that’s not reality:
“There’s [still] this sort of squeamishness about presenting older women and a belief that if you show older women engaging with the brand, … that will put off the younger audience,” Cunningham said. However, that view is contradicted by Cunningham’s research, which has shown that younger audiences actually like older women: They’re curious about their lives, they’re looking to learn from them and they don’t find them off-putting.
This is encouraging, given that it may open the door to greater representation of older people in advertising thanks to the fertile testing ground of social media. But as I’ve said before, ultimately I don’t care what Madison Avenue does. The internet and social media are our domains, so the more important question is – what are you going to do?
Brands Find a New Way to Reach Many Consumers: Older Women (Washinton Post gift article)
Free Agent Nation, Finally?
Employers need talent, and older people want (and often need) to keep working past what we once considered retirement age:
Older Americans are becoming a bigger slice of the population as the Baby Boomers age, and they’re staying in the workforce longer than their predecessors did. People 75 and up are the fastest growing segment of the workforce, according to recent analysis from the Pew Research Center.
No problem, right? Except it always seems to be a problem. We’ve covered the misconceptions and ageism behind much of this, but there are also more practical barriers.
It often boils down to expense and awkwardness.
When an employer tells an older applicant that they’re “overqualified,” this is code for too old. And with it comes “too expensive,” as highly-experienced workers naturally command higher salaries. Never mind that this should translate into enhanced value to the firm that would justify the expense.
But then there’s the fact that the people hiring and managing are often younger themselves. And the idea of working with an older, wiser, and more seasoned person is, like, awkward … you know?
“Unstated is, ‘I don’t know how to manage somebody who looks like my dad,'” said Cappelli.
“I think there’s just an insecurity that if we bring on this person that has all this experience, and all these years, they’re going to try to take my job or they’re going to make me look bad,” said Finch.
Now, the idea of anyone telling me what to do at this point is somewhat incomprehensible given that I haven’t had a “real” job in 25 years. So I have no idea what it would be like to be “managed” by a younger person, especially when they know vastly less than I do.
And yet, we still have the original scenario that’s not going away:
Employers need talent, and older people want (and often need) to keep working past what we once considered retirement age.
For decades we’ve heard that traditional employment will give way to more and more independent contractors, freelancers, and consultants. More of the “Hollywood model” that sees teams assemble to work on projects and then disperse.
But every time employers need talent in a labor crunch, they shift right back to standard hiring practices. Except now there seems to be a sticking point when contemplating hiring the most talented and experienced workers that are really the only option.
Will this be the catalyst for an army of older free agents that operate as their own business and provide services and advice in a context that won’t weird out Millennials? Could be, and that presents an angle on what type of training, products, and services the “unretired” set might desire.
Why Older Workers are Having Trouble Getting Hired (Marketplace)
That’s it for now, thanks for reading. Please consider sharing this issue with others who might be interested: