There has been a lot of discussion in the media about Ageism as a result of Covid19. It really isn’t new, but the spotlight has been on in a way it usually isn’t.

The impact felt by Care Homes, the heavy-handed blanket stay at home message to all those over 70 and some of the age-based choices on who does/doesn’t get treatment show very clearly that Society has a way to go in coming to terms with more of us living longer.

The imagery and tone of this coverage make it even harder to stomach wrinkly handed imagery, a gravitation to end of life and a general ignorance to the midlife phase that many of us will spend a 1/3rd of our lives and upwards in. The ism that is still allowed to go unchallenged far too often isn’t being dealt with at all yet.

If you are or know someone with what is often referred to as a special or significant birthday this year I’m pretty confident they will not be looking forward to receiving their first over 50s plan mailing, “hilarious” when I’m 64 cards or suddenly developing a longing for Werther’s originals. This multiplies as you get older — over 80? Must be a miracle and you surely cannot be active/not given up. Stories of Dame Judy on the front of Vogue or 100-year-old sky divers gain interest because they are outliers not commonplace as they really ought to be. The truth of course is lots of people in their 70s, 80s and beyond are peacefully carrying on as they have for years!

Which got me thinking again about the many reasons to consider an ageing society in Marketing plans which whilst seemingly obvious happens rarely. So, in not very original style thought I’d share 6 great reasons why you should consider older consumers in your thinking:

1) We are getting older!

According to ONS in 2019 there were 12.4million adults over the age of 65 in the UK.

Research from 2018 by the Centre for Ageing Better found that in the following 20 years the number of people aged over 65 would grow by more that 20%.

This means a continued growth in spending power which is even more relevant in a recession as who will still have money to spend to meet their needs? There is after all a reason fraudsters perpetrate so much of their efforts on older consumers. Ironic that this group are the ones who have really grasped the opportunity.

The BBC reported recently that Birth rates globally have dropped — the concept of superaging is becoming reality in more and more countries.

Billions spent on travel annually. Clearly this has been hit hard in the current environment but a conversation amongst those in control at the world’s major cruise lines will confirm forward bookings are strong and (whisper it quietly) the point at which people feel they can travel again the bookings will rise again rapidly.

Average/Mean age of a new car purchaser is 54 (The Times)

The data points in one clear direction! There are more books being written/conferences and webinars and influencers/experts than ever in the expanding Business of Ageing.

2) It has been neglected so is still a rare chance for differentiation

They still buy so why change?

It is too hard!

We tested it and it didn’t work.

Common observations from academics and business people alike.

Travel can be argued to be the best exponent — the market value for Cruise alone was $45.6bn in 2018 (source Cruisewatch). Just look at recent announcements from Emerald/Scenic, Viking and Silversea they are investing heavily in new ships and gearing up for another 10 years of boom times (at least). The growth in these markets is driven by a mature audience and will be for many years to come.

And if you don’t believe this story check out the order books for shipyards who are going to be busy for quite some time yet building and refurbishing.

You cannot underestimate how unimpressed consumers are with inappropriate targeting. The number of people I speak to in their 50s & 60s who were suddenly flipped into a world of stair lifts and incontinence pants when they are living very active lives (just spend 5 minutes on Instagram and the volume of over 50s fashion related accounts as a reality check) it is eye opening.

Very basic but by taking time to understand something about Ageing and what that means to consumer behaviour you will be in a small minority and achieve some clear differentiation. It really isn’t about patronising/going in heavy handed it really is the subtleties of acknowledging that life doesn’t stop at 50/60/70/80…

3) Behaviour and expectation are changing

Boomers set the tone for this — expectations in every way have been raised and unretirement as a concept says it all.

No one wants to feel old/vulnerable/past it (add your own cliché here). Given the choice they will carry on as normal until no longer able to do so any more. You only need to see the number of erectile disfunction ads/the number of mature divorces (silver splitters) and who has the highest instance of alcohol related issues to get a sense that people have no interest in slowing down as they might possibly in years past.

Take the huge cohort referred to as Generation X for example — the sandwich generation. Children later in life/higher expectations/older parents. The coming changes in retirement/need & desire for encore careers is going to grow exponentially over the next couple of decades. Some of the messages from Government over the summer are part of this (tax increases to fund care/take more exercise/lose weight etc…

The way we age has evolved, and stereotypes and systems of the recent past will not hold up. Conventional retirement is changing (people cannot afford to/don’t want to), Health and fitness disparity will drive very different outcomes (some living longer healthier lives many potentially the total opposite).

4) An older population creates massive opportunity for new products and services

More people living longer with higher expectations from life = a world of opportunity.

Be it in health (so for those who mobility & health diminish) or those who are lucky enough to be independent/healthy & active and want to make the best of that situation.

In housing we need more homes adapted for the needs of older people who want to stay in their own homes. We also need to think about where these homes are (or how we creatively address the challenges with initiatives like Silver sharers ) or the move towards co-habitation particularly amongst groups of older women.

Another Centre for Ageing Better statistic shows the majority of homes people are going to grow older in have already been built so home modification is clearly going to be a growth opportunity and need.

Health monitoring — taking more control of your body (you only get one after all) and making smarter choices earlier is a huge opportunity for growth. A device that tells you time for more rest/your sugar level is too low your current pattern of behaviour is putting you at risk of X/Y or Z disease/future problem?

More people wanting/needing to change careers/stay employable into their 60s or 70s? Further education whether necessary or out of choice will be growing.

At its simplest if you design a product or service ask yourself how you’d make it appeal to someone in their 60s or 70s and then build into the overall design. Or better still have some people in that age group as part of the team the results will be insightful!

5) Hobbies and interests for the 50 to 70 group need to be acknowledged

Doesn’t mean a run on Bowls clubs (nothing wrong with that at all btw each to their own) more focus on a range of very active hobbies — ramblers holidays/ health retreats etc

I have been lucky enough to speak to lots of people in mid-life who are doing amazing things, and this really isn’t so rare now.

I have encountered two particularly great examples on twitter  @Irongranny and @Beastmodegrandma both competing at incredibly high levels and both incredibly inspiring individuals. I loved talking to them so much I’m going to organise separate conversations with them so you can hear more of their stories directly. The rise in Masters sports of all variety shows the trend of not slowing down.

if you run a gym or are a personal trainer how could you design a package to appeal to different segments of older consumers without patronising them? After all, getting started is the hardest part for many — once you have broken the back of it who knows where you might go in time.

6) Older parents and the Bank of Mum & Dad even more important post Pandemic

Given a mortgage market that is going to be having a tough time in the months to come (c1 in 9 mortgage holders have taken a holiday as a result of Covid19). Very likely that the UK’s largest lender the Bank of Mum and Dad (and its Grandparent offshoots) will be picking up quite a lot of the slack for many years to come.

What does that mean? That you will really need to talk to them as unlocking that spending power may very well be the thing that sustains the economy/gets the wheels turning again post Covid.

Want to access the elusive youth/young adult marketplace? Newsflash you very likely need to be talking to the people in the household with most of the money now — mid lifers and upwards.

Hope the above has been helpful and inspires you to think about your business opportunities differently and more inclusively.

There are some great examples of businesses/initiatives starting to fill some of these gaps but still ample opportunity.

Small(ish) Print

I’m Julian Harcourt a marketing consultant trading as greyafro. I help businesses understand and target mature audiences and can be reached at

If you enjoyed this and would like to support my efforts to do more you can buy me a coffee every penny helps after all! I’ll happily drink stronger stuff if you’d like!