Back in the day, the term “senior citizen” was fairly well used and accepted for the most part. Lifespans were shorter and older adults weren’t nearly as healthy and “well” as they are today and will be in the future. Times have definitely changed.
Today’s older adults (50+ for sake of argument) are no longer like their grandparents (or parents). While the traditional roadmap of retiring and riding off into the (silver) sunset is still the dream for some, most older adults are looking to live as long and as healthy as they can, shunning the idea of spending their last few years in a rocking chair without anything to look forward to. They are looking to stay active and involved in many areas of life and they resent the idea of society putting them in a corner and forgetting about them.
In more practical terms, older adults are also tired of being ignored by companies who refuse to market their products or services to them or they depict and speak to them in stereotypical and sometimes offensive ways. This is not only crazy but also does not make any business sense given that older adults account for over half of all consumer spending. Who knew?!
To help marketers “see the light”, Age of Majority, a marketing consultancy that provides insights to companies so that they can better market to the group of consumers they call “Active Agers”, was launched in 2017 with a mission to break the myths and stereotypes associated with older adults.
We recently connected with Jeff Weiss, Age of Majority’s President and CEO (which means Chief EvAGElist Officer in his case) to discuss some of the main challenges and questions that his clients often face when marketing to older consumers. One of the questions often asked is “What do you call older people?” You would think that it’s a rather basic question that would have a straightforward answer, but this could not be farther from the truth.
Weiss said that his initial response is to understand what someone means by “older adults” and to define those characteristics. Is it simply based on age and, if so, at what age does someone get “old”? The answer to the question can put you into sensitive territory. For example, he’s 57 and will be offended if the number is lower than that! Is their definition based on health status, use of technology (or lack thereof), the presence of grandchildren, or something else?
The word “old” is a relative term that needs to be compared to something else and subjectivity often comes into play. For example, Weiss says that he might be considered old to a 15 year-old, while his 97 year-old tennis partner calls him a spring chicken.
When it comes to labeling older adults, Weiss’ advice, in most cases, is not to use any labels or terms to define these consumers. And this doesn’t just apply to older people but to consumers in general. “If I tell my 24 year-old son that he is a typical millennial, he’ll quickly point out all of the ways that he is different from the typical millennial portrayed in media and pop culture”.
As to the core question of what to call older adults for marketing purposes, Age of Majority posed that question to their Revolution55 community to understand what resonates with them. Not surprisingly, opinions vary greatly and there is clearly not one term that most are comfortable with (remember what he said about subjectivity). The findings did point out that “Golden Agers” implies the next step to death, while “Mature” implies that you can’t realize this state until you pass a certain age. That makes Weiss laugh as he knows people in their teens who are more mature than some of his friends in their 70s and 80s!
Out of the hundreds of responses they received from their Revolutionaries, these two are most indicative of the general comments that were received:
“I prefer senior. I hate Baby Boomers.”
“I like Baby Boomers. I don’t like seniors.”
Apparently there is no pleasing everyone and using labels is bound to offend many people.
The one comment from their community members that sums up the advice that a lot of Active Agers would like to give marketers:
“I don’t care what you call me, as long as you call me.”
Active Agers are tired of being ignored and they are craving for marketers to acknowledge them in meaningful, relevant and appropriate ways that won’t offend them, including not labeling them with names that can easily turn them off.
Understanding the changing dynamics and needs of older adults, Amintro was conceived as a social platform exclusively for people 50+ that wanted to foster friendships, share experiences and gain new knowledge. The community has grown significantly since we launched and we are now looking for how to best expand the size of our community and keep our members more engaged with each other.
To that end, we have teamed up with Age of Majority to help us improve the Amintro social platform user experience and social outcomes for people over 50 years of age. Together we will explore innovative new features and functionalities that support social inclusion, social participation and building the community.
How can you help? As a member of the 50+ crowd, we greatly value your opinion and we hope that you will participate in a survey that will guide us on our journey. Here’s how you can participate:
- Join the Revolution55 online insights community (note that we will provide a specific link for registration purposes to Rev55) — it’s easy to register, there is no cost to join and you can win great prizes just by providing your opinions on a wide variety of topics that will be of interest to you;
- Participate in the survey that is being sponsored by Amintro — and you will be entered into a special draw to win one of six (6) Amazon gifts cards valued at $25 each!
If you are tired of being ignored by marketers and want to voice your opinion on a wide variety of topics, we would welcome your participation in our unique online community, Revolution55, that will help break the myths and crush the stereotypes and stigmas associated with aging.