Longevity and the sage consumer

Consulting firm ATKearney has come out with a path breaking consumer study spanning 23 countries including population giants India and China that foretells an "agequake" where the fastest growing consumer group is comprised of over-60 year olds.

Titled "What Do Mature Consumers Want?", the report's many finding includes the fact that 35 year from now there will be 2 billion "mature" consumers over the age of 60 amounting to 25% of the world's population. With a road map applicable to a broad range of industries from retail to health-care to tour and travel the research paper's findings include some interesting and, sometimes, obvious facts:

    – Over-80s are globally much more loyal to established brands, and less willing to spend money on products that offer health benefits or are considered 'green.

    – Over-60s in the developed world have another 20 years of healthy life that enables them to travel abroad, dine out and spend a higher proportion of their incomes (and wealth) on food and drink.

    – Mature citizens control much of a nation's wealth even as incomes decline. eg. in the US 80% of financial assets is owned by over-50s who account for 50% of discretionary income.

    – Age is no longer a barrier to activity, even strenuous activity.  92 year old Gladys Burrill finished a marathon and in the UK while Brian Burnett a former Wimbledon club chairman played tennis till he was 94 after a 40 year career as a pilot!

ATKearney states that the "most important finding" in their study is that the euphemistically and somewhat patronizingly called mature shoppers "do not think they are adequately served by marketers, retailers or manufacturers. Most comments focus on the difficulties they face, including the inability to navigate large stores. Product packaging is often difficult to open, and labels, prices and directions in stores are hard to read. Ditto could be said of airlines and hotels where opening miniature packages of toitetries is a challenge for regular fingers much less for those afflicted with even mild arthritis. 

The consulting firm also found that older folks "buy fewer items but tend to spend more per item. Overwhelmingly, they seek quality products, are loyal to brands, and are not particularly price sensitive—even if their incomes are below average levels. This trend is even more pronounced with aging."

Contrary to received wisdom, the study found that "the use of technology is widespread, with 69 percent of respondents having both fixed-line and mobile phones." And in the United Kingdom, ATKearney found that the sparklingly titled silver surfers (55 and older) are the fastest-growing age group for Internet adoption."

The UN has estimated that by the end of this year there will be seven billion humans on earth. Half of them live in urban areas with approximately 180 000 people move into cities daily, adding roughly 60 million new urban dwellers each year. With longevity on the rise, demographers have projected world population may reach nine billion before 2050.

The mature or sage market is obviously on the ascent. It is time for marketers across industries to mature and develop the sagacity to gear up and meet their needs.


Published by

Vijay Dandapani

Co-founder and president of a New York based hotel company for 24 years. Grew the firm to five hotels in Manhattan and also developed a greenfield project at MacArthur airport, New York. Speaker at numerous prestigious forums including Economy Hotels World Asia, Lodging Conference, NYU, Columbia University Real Estate Roundtable, Baruch College's Zicklin School and ALIS. President and ceo of New York City Hotel Association since January 2017.