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October, 2013 Newsletter

“This stage of life is not for the faint of heart—but I’m on the brink of a new adventure.”

As consumer-centric innovation experts, we work with a lot of different kinds of consumers. Recently Ideas To Go facilitators Cynthia Ryan and Susan Wandell got some of our most experienced Creative Consumers® associates (CCs) in the Boomer-age range together for an ideation session about their thoughts on life, health, connection and what it means to be a consumer “of a certain age.” What we heard might surprise you. In a nutshell, these sharp, creative, with-it adults are not your parent’s grandparents. As one of our CCs put it, “This stage of life is not for the faint of heart—but I’m on the brink of a new adventure.” Here are some insights that caught our attention: 

Boomers Have More Disposable Income Than Their Predecessors

The number crunchers at Nielsen say that Boomers control 70% of disposable income, and account for 49% of all spending on consumer packaged goods. And, the types of products and services Boomers are interested in spending all that disposable income on are ripe for marketers to examine. New wealth management services might be one category to consider. As one Creative Consumers® associate stated, “I don’t want to burden my kids. Having a plan is critical. I’m making plans for the unexpected. I’m making plans for the inevitable.”

Planning for the future is obviously different at this stage than when they were younger. Now they not only have more disposable income, they also have more “disposable” time. Specifically more time for themselves and more time (and money) for spoiling the grandkids. One associate arrived to the session early so she headed down the street to shop for her grandkids at a high-end children’s boutique. She suggested baby marketers could be doing themselves a service by talking to grandmas such as herself—who have a desire (and the funds) to buy only the best for their grandbabies. As Susan Wandell puts it, Boomers are casting a wider net with their dollars. “They are not only spending money on their own needs and wants—but they are spending on their children, grandchildren and causes they care about. This can mean tremendous opportunities for brands to connect with them.”


Boomers’ Approach To Health

When it comes to healthcare, many Boomers find themselves with a variety of issues to consider. In regards to their own health, they appreciate the wealth of information that have at their disposal—which their parents just didn’t have available. But coming to terms with the reality of this information can take some getting used to. As one of our Creative Consumers® associates put it, “We're always contemplating new health situations that could crop up in a given day. My husband just flipped out about having arthritis in his elbow. But I just want to be good for my age—and 60+ doesn't look like 50. At this point, I'm going for people who look good for their age—I really don't care if I don't look like I’m 20.” She speaks for many Boomers who are evaluating the reality and quality of their lives in the years ahead. And these days, with life expectancies soaring past age 70, those years need to count. As Susan Wandell points out, “As this generation grows older, I can’t image it will do anything but demand to age with greater convenience, greater comfort, and greater dignity.” 

In 2010, there were 7.2 possible caregivers (people aged 45 to 64 years old) for every person age 80-plus. By 2050, they expect the ratio to reach less than 3 to 1.

That insight is true not just for Boomers and their own health—but also how they approach healthcare for their parents. Another Creative Consumers® associate shared that this is an especially unique stage in life for her and her husband: “Just as my youngests are moving out, we are caring for four high-need parents—so we're really back in the responsible seat for somebody else, every day of our lives. I find it's harder now than caring for babies. The element of caring for them is very different.” According to a recent report released from the AARP Public Policy Institute, over the next 20 years the number of potential caregivers will drop dramatically. In 2010, there were 7.2 possible caregivers (people aged 45 to 64 years old) for every person age 80-plus. By 2050, they expect the ratio to reach less than 3 to 1. “This means that relying on only your family to provide long-term care may be unrealistic in the future,” said report co-author Lynn Feinberg. “As a nation we need to think about changes to long-term care that need to begin now, not when the boomers actually need support and care beginning in just 13 years.”

So, in the swirl of healthcare issues to consider, Boomers are looking for help. Healthcare marketers could take this Creative Consumers® associate comment to heart: “I wish for a reliable advocate to help me cut through and understand all the choices I have at this stage—especially for healthcare. I don't believe one website is going to help me. I'm overwhelmed by second-guessing myself from researching all the information.”


The Times, They Are A Changin'

Admittedly, 60 is not the new 30 by any means—but it’s easy to see it's not what it used to be either. Many Boomers are active, inventive, adventurous and embracing all the “newness” the world has thrown at them in their lifetime—including the speed and ease of things like technology and travel. During a break, our Creative Consumers® associates buzzed as they shared new apps and suggestions for leveraging technology to stay connected to family, friends—and even a spouse met online. According to the Engage:Boomers blog from MediaPost Publications, the 50+ market has embraced digital media as a means of learning about new products and services—and are responsible for over 40% of all online expenditures. That, coupled with the fact that Boomers are responsible for 48% of all vacation expenditures means the idea of “being put out to pasture” could mean relaxing in a luxurious villa somewhere in the Italian countryside. 

This is the generation that brought the popular concept of having a “bucket list” to light—which has plenty of implications for marketers in “experiential” industries.

Let's face it—the idea of redefinition is not new to this generation. Since the 60s, Boomers have been instrumental in changing long-standing cultural beliefs and social norms. As Cynthia Ryan says, “Now that they’re aging, why wouldn’t we expect them to redefine this as well?” And Boomers are looking forward to it with enthusiasm: “I feel like I have a sense of adventure that's closer to the surface than before—wanting to be spontaneous and feeling like I can, because I have less responsibility and less self-consciousness.” Remember, this is the generation that brought the popular concept of having a “bucket list” to light—which has plenty of implications for marketers in the food, travel, entertainment, and other more “experiential” industries.


With Age Comes Increased Creativity

Time Magazine recently ran a cover story called, “How To Live Long.” One main theme throughout the article was that people tend to grow more creative as the years pass by. “Not all intellectual functions are preserved in older people…but to the extent that the brain’s processing power does decline, it compensates in other ways—ones that actually enhance creativity. Studies with MRI show that in the older brain, one hemisphere is not shy about calling on the other for help if it’s having trouble with a task...The more cross talk you get between the hemispheres—something older people are very good at—the more of those happy pop-outs you get, leading to a self-reinforcing loop in which creating a little gives you a taste for creating a lot."

The article goes on to say:

“For the older person, simple life circumstances may help liberate the mind too. Even if you're explosively creative, when you're in young adulthood and middle age there are a lot of things making demands on your time and your mind—raising kids, paying off a mortgage, holding down a job. That kind of activity does not come free, and at some point you may simply tap out the energy reserves that could otherwise go to making you creative. But, says psychologist Robert Levenson of the University of California, Berkeley, who studies emotion and aging, "’when you're older, you're off that treadmill, so you can free up some horsepower in the service of creativity.’"

“There’s something very real about the way creativity endures in the face of age—and maybe even pushes back age…Increasingly, brain research is showing that in the case of creative people…it’s not just the luck of living a long life that allows some people to leave behind such robust bodies of work but the act of doing creative work is what helps add those extra years.” 

To have creative and articulate people who are willing to talk about their evolving situations, experiences, and feelings is invaluable to marketing teams looking for insights and new opportunities.

We don’t need research to know this is true. Our Creative Consumers® associates prove it time and again, and as one of them said, “As I have been exposed to more and more, and to people's different ideas, I look at things from a different perspective. That helps me to change my perspective—it broadens me and totally moves me into a different area. That, by myself, with my own experiences, I wouldn't have been able to see.” 

According to Cynthia Ryan, aging well may be the next Boomer DIY project. “Many are taking their future into their own hands—from yoga to nutrition to communes (again!)—as well as the intellectual and creative challenges of encore careers. To have creative and articulate people who are willing to talk about their evolving situations, experiences, and feelings is invaluable to marketing teams looking for insights and new opportunities.”

Jill Reiswig

Jill Reiswig is the Content Marketing Manager at Ideas To Go, an innovation agency that works with Fortune 500 companies in ideation and concept development to incorporate the voice of the consumer.