What Will Older Consumers Buy in 2024?
Plus the shift from retirement to reinvention, "fear of marketing older" among younger people, and developments in the realm of age reversal and life extension.
In this week’s Longevity Gains, we’re exploring:
The opportunities in the shift from retirement to reinvention
Why younger people are not well suited for longevity marketing
A roundup of advances in “science fiction” life and healthspan extension
But first, it would certainly be helpful if we had some indication of what older consumers are looking to spend money on this year. And while survey data is by no means perfect, we do have some guidelines for 2024.
The United States is in a weird place. Consumer sentiment has been out of line with the data for most of last year – even as things improved economically people thought the sky was falling.
As we head into 2024, inflation and interest rates are dropping while employment remains strong. And yet, Americans show mixed levels of confidence when it comes to disposable income and spending.
For our purposes, we’re not interested in the general population so much as we are in older consumers. Fortunately, we can compare both side to side thanks to a CivicScience poll of U.S. adults seeking insight into their outlook on their disposable income and spending for 2024.
CivicScience data show 1-in-5 (20%) say that fashion and footwear spending will be most at risk for both the general population and consumers 55+, with almost a third (31%) of 55+ respondents identifying it as their primary area for spending reductions.
On the other hand, the general population is twice as likely to reduce spending on beauty products than 55+. Notably, the 55+ segment intends to cut back less than the Gen Pop on beauty, sporting goods, entertainment, automotive, health and wellness, and education.
Examining the flip side of the equation, we find some similarities again as to where Americans intend to increase spending in 2024 – travel, home improvement, and health/wellness stand out as top priorities for American consumers.
Not only are a healthy percentage of the general population and the 55+ segments interested in spending more on those categories, but 55+ is as much as seven percentage points more likely to spend more on travel and their homes than the general population.
Bottom Line: Americans aged 55+ will trim back on fashion/footwear expenses, while over half indicate a preference for spending increases on either travel or home improvement – 15 points higher than U.S. adults citing the same priorities.
Retirement is Tired. Think Reinvention.
An interesting piece from Harvard Business Review explores how difficult it can be for CEOs and other executives to transition from the job to whatever comes next. And the most interesting thing about this transition is that there is no mention of golf, retirement communities, or lounging around.
Today’s definition of retirement is entirely new, marked by a desire to continue working, to create a portfolio of activities and engagements, to make a meaningful positive impact, and to design an overall lifestyle that keeps you engaged, excited and active. Avoiding these seven common traps will help make the transition more efficient and enjoyable. It may even lead you to your most fulfilling life stage yet.
This goes right to the heart of purpose and meaning, and why it’s often the highest earning and most successful people who don’t want to retire at all. So it makes sense that even when leaving the c-suite, these people are looking to make an impact in a different but meaningful way.
Perhaps there will be a new niche for executive (and perhaps entrepreneur) coaches who aid the reinvention process? Because it certainly doesn’t look like anyone is interested in “retiring” in the conventional sense.
The Challenges of Retiring from a High-Powered Job (Harvard Business Review)
But what about everyone else? Retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, which means that the need for reinvention coaching should be in broader demand. And it currently exists, but it’s not exactly affordable:
There’s not much in the way of a guide to figuring out what comes next after retiring from a full-time job. There are, however, terrific reinvention programs from institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Notre Dame, the University of Chicago and the University of Texas — if you can afford their price tags of $60,000 or more.
Ouch. Surely there’s a viable business model involving coaching, courses, and community that can provide similar guidance at a more accessible price. The article below from Richard Eisenberg outlines such programs, but they’re also all in conventional university settings. Much as with the rise of general online education from a variety of commercial sources, I expect to see the same happen here.
The FOMO of Younger People
Here at Longevity Gains, FOMO means Fear of Marketing Older. And for younger marketers, this fear may be of a literal and broad nature.
We already know that marketers under the age of 35 have wild misconceptions about older consumers. And while I’m not about to advocate ageism against our younger friends, it’s hard for me to imagine a young person being able to truly “get” the older consumer at a level that exceeds, you know … an actual older person.
But there absolutely is some ageism involved here. And just like other prejudices, the root cause is fear. Racism, sexism, and ageism all involve some fear of the “other.” And even though ageism is unique because everyone who doesn’t die young gets older, that’s exactly why it’s so scary to young people.
According to a recent double opt-in survey conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Forbs Health of 2,000 American adults, young adults are more afraid of aging than older adults. 56% of young adults between the ages of 18-24 years old are afraid of getting old, compared to only 21% of older adults aged 77 or older.
This is mostly based on misconceptions, and that’s perfectly understandable. In fact, ageism is rarely malicious outside of bitter internet trolls. But that doesn’t mean we can allow it to go unaddressed.
The real point, however, is that the longevity economy is the ideal domain for older marketers and entrepreneurs. You have a great deal of advantageous insight simply by making it this far. 😉
Young Adults Are More Afraid Of Aging Than Older Adults (American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine)
The Science of Life Extension and Age Reversal
We had major developments in longevity science last year, keeping the dream of a medical “fountain of youth” alive. Given the billions invested in the field, we should see more of the same.
2023 kicked off with one of the most startling discoveries yet. For that, let’s revisit a section from the Longevity Economy Fundamentals ebook:
[W]hat we’re talking about is the ability to literally rewind aging. In other words, to reverse the age of our cells so that our bodies and brains revert to an earlier stage.
Cellular senescence specifically means that a cell has stopped multiplying and functioning properly but doesn’t die off and leave the body through apoptosis. This leads to general senescence – or aging – in the larger organism (that’s you).
There are two general theories of what causes cellular senescence. One theory is that a cell enters this dysfunctional state due to mutations, which would mean reversing the age of the cell and restoring the functionality would be practically impossible.
The competing theory is that aging results from cells losing critical instructions they need to continue functioning and that it’s possible to “reboot” the cell by restoring the missing epigenetic information. This is what the aforementioned David Sinclair, professor of genetics and co-director of the Paul F. Glenn Center for Biology of Aging Research at Harvard Medical School, calls the Information Theory of Aging:
It’s similar to the way software programs operate off hardware, but sometimes become corrupt and need a reboot, says Sinclair. ‘If the cause of aging was because a cell became full of mutations, then age reversal would not be possible,’ he says. ‘But by showing that we can reverse the aging process, that shows that the system is intact, that there is a backup copy and the software needs to be rebooted.’
After 13 years of research, Sinclair provided evidence that Information Theory is correct and cellular aging can, in fact, be reversed. A study published in January of 2023 in the journal Cell reveals that Sinclair and his team have both sped up and reversed the aging process in mice — not just in individual cells, but for the whole animal:
In the Cell paper, Sinclair and his team report that not only can they age mice on an accelerated timeline, but they can also reverse the effects of that aging and restore some of the biological signs of youthfulness to the animals.
That could mean that a host of age-related diseases, including terminal ailments such as heart disease and Alzheimer’s, could be treated by reversing the aging process that leads to them in the first place.
Okay, so that’s in mice. But experiments often start there because we’re more genetically similar to mice than you might think. And in this case, the necessary cellular functions of both mice and humans are the same when it comes to this particular procedure.
From there, Sinclair and his team have moved to testing on larger non-human primates and also with human neurons, skin, and fibroblast cells. Sinclair says that eye diseases will be the first condition used to test this aging reversal in people since the gene therapy can be injected directly into the eye area.
This research seems incredibly promising, but don’t expect this method for reversing cellular aging to be available immediately. The main concern is side effects from the treatment on humans, such as cancerous mutations. One ray of hope in that specific case is that the researchers have already encountered this problem with mice and solved it.
Even with cancer presumably accounted for, it will take years to develop a true age-reversal medical process through human trials. But we may be looking at a simple issue of timing, as Sinclair’s says:
Now, when I see an older person, I don’t look at them as old, I just look at them as someone whose system needs to be rebooted. It’s no longer a question of if rejuvenation is possible, but a question of when.
That’s the essence of this particular approach to longevity science, and while there are many others, cellular age reversal seems the most feasible and revolutionary. For more detail on the history of the research and the process itself, here are two solid guides:
Has First Person to Live to be 150 Been Born? (Harvard Gazette interview with David Sinclair)
Here are some other developments from the remainder of 2023:
A critical driver for brain aging is long-lasting inflammation throughout the body. Study results suggest that lowering inflammatory molecules in the body, rather than directly in the brain, could potentially rescue age-related cognition and prevent memory problems.
A blood test found that different organs in the same person age at their own paces. The insight could lead to personalized therapy. By detecting faster-aging organs, it’s possible we can predict a person’s risk for a variety of age-related diseases and provide early intervention. These tailored treatments could stave off age-related problems such as memory loss, bone weakness, diabetes, high blood pressure, or other chronic killers.
A study provided compelling evidence that cutting calories slows signs of aging in humans. Estimates suggest the lifestyle change could reduce mortality risk by up to 15 percent — similar to quitting smoking. More broadly, we now have evidence for one of the most prominent longevity theories in humans: That lowering calories by just a bit, without sacrificing nutrients, boosts healthy longevity.
A study this year in mice and monkeys found it may be possible to slow aging by increasing a simple ingredient in the diet — taurine, an amino acid. An analysis of nearly 12,000 people found that high taurine levels correlated with lower blood sugar and a protein marker associated with chronic inflammation and aging.
Humans live decades. Mice, a few years. It’s no wonder that most longevity studies are performed in lab animals with a far shorter lifespan. But can any resulting therapies apply to humans? A comprehensive study suggests yes.
Remember, nothing we talk about regarding the longevity economy and the value of older consumers depends on an age reversal breakthrough. But it’s wise to keep up with this stuff, because it could end up being the most economically altering development in history.
More detail on the above at the click:
That’s all for this issue. Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next week.