Ageing populations – it might seem a slightly odd topic for a millennial to give much thought.
But with my grandparents in their 90s and my parents nearing their 60s, the two generations’ approach to ageing got me thinking. How prepared are brands for the aged and the ageless amongst us?
For the first time in history, the number of people aged 65 and over will soon outnumber children under five globally and with the recent announcement that the first person to live to 150 has already been born, the conversation has mainly centred around this age group’s increased spending power and wellbeing. But what about how they think and feel?
These days you’re just as likely to find a 60-year-old Taylor Swift fan as you are a 20-year-old Bob Dylan obsessive.
We’re now witnessing an ever-narrowing cultural gap between boomers and millennials. These days you’re just as likely to find a 60-year-old Taylor Swift fan as you are a 20-year-old Bob Dylan obsessive. Indeed, whilst we might dismiss the phrase ‘50’s the new 40’, those reaching this point are increasingly age-nostic not just in their appearances but in their appetite for new experiences. They are taking up new ways of living and working, searching for the new rather than just the familiar. Refusing to slow down into the stereotypes of the elderly - they come across as ageless, demanding more from brands than ever.
So what’s a brand to do? For a start, no longer should the default be to cut off the over 50s as aged. I believe anyone can become more like the ageless with the right barriers removed; they just need to be shown the familiar with the new. Trust has never been so important and those brands that have it also have the permission to take the aged on the journey to agelessness.
As we make the transition to a world of experiences, the brands coming out on top will cater to both the ageless attitudes and the bodily bothers of an ageing population. They will be built to help consumers renew their sense of purpose, manage memories and simplify the noise of life. This is not just about building positive experiences around the brand, but imbedding meaning into the way the brand does business.
Some are better positioned than others to take boomers on this journey. Boots, the nation’s pharmacist, has a huge opportunity to capitalise on the large role they already play in the well-being of people’s lives by reenergising consumers post-50 beyond their healthcare, becoming a community connector. This is not just about having cafes to rest in and wide aisles for mobility scooters, but as Aeon, the Japanese supermarket, have done, introducing a dating programme and activity classes that include hula-hooping and calligraphy. They get that their customers increasingly want to have their worlds opened wider, not.
Airbnb, the darling of the travel start-ups, has this one cracked. More than a simple holiday rental site, Airbnb has realised the potential of simplicity and community. For the aged, while properties can be filtered to allow for mobility issues, the whole process is imbued with trust and premised on being able to get to know the person you’re dealing with, whether a host or a guest. But equally significant is the optimism for a life better lived through experiencing new places and meeting new people that runs through the brand. Perfect for the ageless amongst us.
The opportunity’s ripe for brands that can curate meaning, whether that’s in capturing experiences or nurturing newfound aspirations. But the best bit of news for brands is that these are universal needs, unrestricted to those in their golden years. In short: inclusivity and purpose rule.