The good news is that people are living longer. The bad news is that the corporate world’s view of older consumers is obsolete. This leads to product failures and missed opportunities in the aging market. MIT AgeLab director Joseph F. Coughlin dispels many misconceptions about aging and makes a strong case for expanding the “longevity economy” beyond health and leisure products and services. Aging baby boomers are rewriting the false narrative of the needy or greedy retiree to include professional ambition, new experiences, continued learning and a wide range of recreational activities.
The aging of the world’s populations has profound and predictable implications.
People are living longer as life expectancies reach all-time highs. Child mortality rates are declining steadily, as are deaths among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s. Worldwide birth rates are decreasing. The baby boomer population bump is entering its senior years. By 2030, more than 20% of the US population will be older than 65 and responsible for 50% of consumer spending. This burgeoning consumer group requires products and services that cater to its needs, and it has the money to pay for them.
Strategists fail to take global aging into account; marketers tend to ignore consumers older than 49. Companies usually make products and services that serve a younger demographic, often producing offerings that offend older peoples’ self-image. Few companies innovate in areas that would improve life for mature adults. Implicit bias against the elderly is pervasive, reinforced by media accounts of the aging as a crisis in the making. Baby boomers, a generation that demanded innovation at every life stage, are rewriting...
About the Author
Joseph F. Coughlin, PhD, is the founder and director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a professor at the Sloan School of Management and a board member of AARP. He consults with major companies worldwide.