Boomers Redefining Aging, Approach to Health
Are you ready—with programming, equipment and facilities—for the baby boomers?
According to Steve French, managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute, who spoke at the 10th annual International Council on Active Aging, fundamental shifts in the nation's largest demographic group are leading to perceptual changes that will influence the market for boomer-targeted products and services.
"As boomers adjust to the new challenges of aging, they're realizing they have to realign some of their long-held attitudes and behaviors," French said. "As a result, they are reinventing themselves, becoming more self-aware and self-responsible, and taking a pragmatic approach that will drive various industries forward."
Based on data from NMI's Healthy Aging/Boomer Database, an annual survey of more than 3,000 U.S. older adults, French identified four trends that are shaping the boomer market (and we've tried to interpret these trends into actions you can take at your facility):
- Legacy: According to NMI research, 83 percent of consumers over 50 said they are becoming more aware of the importance of personal relationships rather than personal possessions. Two-thirds said they are trying to do more things that benefit others rather than themselves. "Fifty-plus consumers desire connection and belonging; they are continuing to audit their lives and search for balance, trying to build a legacy, connect with others, do the right thing," French said.
RM's Translation: Programs and services that allow for more socializing and connecting with others, or that have a connection to charitable works, might be more attractive to this demographic. Think group fitness, trips for older adults that provide a way to give back to the community, and—something recreation facilities have mastered—experiences over things.
- Healthy Aging: Less than one out of five consumers 50 and older are trying to find the fountain of youth. They don't want to be 30 again. "Non-aging" is not what drives them. Instead, healthy aging and accepting who they are now while striving to become healthier are important.
RM's Translation: Don't sell programs and services based on achieving some youthful, unrealistic ideal. Instead, talk about what people can do right now to improve their health in the moment. Think personal training and fitness programs geared to older exercisers, or cooking classes that emphasize healthy meals. We all know by now there are no quick fixes.
- Changing Aging: While boomers accept themselves, that doesn't mean they accept the common stereotypes associated with aging. "Fifty-plus consumers aren't looking to buy big-button phones or 'I've fallen down and can't get up' monitoring devices," French said. "Close to half are searching for new self-care methods to prolong health and vitality, and two-thirds optimistically proclaim that the best years of their life are still ahead of them."
RM's Translation: "Senior" activities may need to be updated for this generation of retirees and near-retirees. Find ways to plug exercise classes—especially yoga, tai chi and other mind-body programs—as a way to age healthfully.
- Meaning: "For boomers, it's no longer about having it all; it's about having the right things," French said. "It's about peeling back the layers and finding the core components of a meaningful life." NMI research indicates that more than half of older consumers feel they would live a better life by having fewer material possessions, and two-thirds feel finding a purpose in life is more important than making money. "One of the main goals driving them to live a healthier lifestyle is the ability to 'relax and enjoy life,' as stated by almost seven in 10."
Translation: Meaningful experiences are important. Relaxation is important. Enjoyment is important. If you're not offering these, you might want to retool your programs and services.
"Steve French and NMI have provided additional data to support our contention that businesses need to tune into the needs and desires of this burgeoning market, which truly is providing the impetus for ICAA's Changing the Way We Age Campaign," said Colin Milner, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging. "Understanding the forces that drive boomers will fuel the development of new products and services that support positive, healthy and active aging."