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WHY YOU WOULD BE A FOOL TO OVERLOOK THE SILVER SURFERS

by Alice Gallop

‘It’s not how old you are, but how you are old’. Renard’s famous 19th century quote makes even more sense four to five generations on. We are living longer; we are looking younger; we are eating better; and we are feeling the benefits of world class health services and amazing breakthroughs in drug technology. A generation ago 40 was the new 30. Today 70 is the new 50 — and that counts. Today there are, pro-rata to overall population size, maybe 12–15% more purchasers of new entrepreneurial products than was the case a generation ago … and they are all over 60 years old.

A decade ago the Economist published its poignant article “over 60 and overlooked” questioning why business remained “obsessed with youth”, spending 95% of their marketing and advertising budgets on the under-50s, when the bulk of society was becoming older, greyer and significantly richer than ever before. Yet even today business continues to neglect the senior population, leaving over-60’s marketing to cruise holidays, elasticated chinos and life insurance. In reality, the 21st century silver surfer is a far cry from the outdated popular conception of a ‘Dumbledore’ style OAP — white whiskered, frail and stuck in the past. Wealthier and healthier than ever, today’s baby boomer generation are bouncier than a blue rinse. For business to disregard this change would be a costly mistake. Of the UK households which own assets worth over £500,000 more than 50% are aged 55 or over, couple this with the long term benefits of a healthier lifestyles then both commercially and physically the baby boomers are a force to be reckoned with.

And just remember the possibility that the purchasing powers of the population at the younger end of the age spectrum might be diminishing. In 2015, the Resolution Foundation noted that inter-generational inequality had switched so that going forward parents would be richer than their children in the longer term. That’s a sobering thought for most of us reading this!

Cash rich, time rich and fitter than ever, we can’t help but think that there is huge entrepreneurial potential for this swelling market. If the later lifers are planning to shop ’til they drop (excuse the turn of phrase) then what will they buy? And let’s not discount the baby-boomers’ parents here — the octogenarians; when you stop to think about changing taste buds, shaky hands and limited mobility, then several consumer product categories remain ripe for development. The luxury ‘retirement village’ concept is already out there — check out Battersea Place, a retirement community complete with spa, heated indoor pool, gym, private cinema, oh and not forgetting a private tunnel to Harrods. But what about state of the art mobility scooters — often be purchased by the baby-boomers for their parents (so know who you’re pitching to). Aston Martin hasn’t yet diversified its offering, but we can’t help thinking they might be missing a trick.

Ok, so we may have got a little overexcited there, but you get the drift. It is no longer commercially viable to lump anyone over 60 into a “grey basket of frailty, tweed and stinginess”. We’re not saying ‘forget the millennials’, but we are saying that there is a real and potentially untapped market available for innovators and entrepreneurs at the other end of the consumer age-range — the baby boomers. Overlook them at your own peril; don’t say we didn’t warn you.