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Happy Grandparents Day – Here’s why it’s important to your business

Grandparents Day is not a “Hallmark Holiday.” It is the work of one woman, Marian McQuade, who made it her mission to educate young people about the contributions of seniors and their importance in the community. She encouraged young people to adopt a grandparent, not just to celebrate the day, but for their lifetime. By 1978, led by Senators Randolph and Byrd, a resolution was passed by Congress and the proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Marian knew what she was talking about. She had 15 children and 43 grandchildren!

Read more here on the Coming of Age blog . . .

AARP Launches Influent50

AARP is betting that a new generation of seniors mean more spending by marketers. Scott Tong of MarketPlace Business talked to Lori about the risks and rewards of marketing to older consumers.

Next week a new marketing company linked to AARP will launch to target adults 50 and over. Influent50 is part of AARP’s for-profit subsidiary.

This is a wealthy, arguably ignored demographic. Influent50 says just 10 percent of marketing money targets people over 50.

“There’s also an opportunity to not be good at it,” says Lori Bitter of the Business of Aging consultancy. She says this is a hard group to target well.

As people age, Bitter says, their buying psychology changes: They no longer want, say, BMW to tell them what the ultimate driving machine is. They’d prefer Apple suggest they “Think Different.”

“It’s allowing us to think about ourselves as opposed to being told what the product is about,” Bitter says.

She and others say marketers have been tripping over a few myths about older adults.

One: that they don’t spend money.

Two: that they’re overly brand loyal.

“I’m not going to buy a different brand of mayonnaise — I like my mayonnaise,” independent advertising consultant Chuck Nyren says. “But everything else is open. And people go to the store, and they’re constantly looking for something different.”

Oh, and one other myth: This group wants to be treated as old people. After all, 50-somethings are represented in this demographic.

Is there an example of what works in today’s marketplace?

“The new Viagra spots,” says Paul Gilbert, at the marketing agency Register Media. “It’s a woman in probably her 40s or 50s, talking about the things Viagra is used for. Think about the sophistication: It has great views and is written for that boomer mindset.”

The marketing firm out of AARP wants to reach boomers on behalf of corporate clients in the initial areas of travel and insurance and eventually pharmaceuticals.

Join me in Chicago at ASA’s Aging in America 2015 & What’s Next Boomer Summit

I will be in Chicago from March 23rd through the 27th for a week-long conference with aging professionals from all over the world. I am delighted to be presenting a program on Grandparents and Intergenerational Trends for ASA’s Aging in America Conference. Christine Crosby, Founder of GRAND Magazine will be joining me on this program:

The Grandparent Economy: How Families Are Evolving in Unprecedented Times
Tuesday, March 24th 1-2 PM
For more information:

On Thursday, March 26th, I will be joining Mary Furlong for the What’s Next Boomer Summit. The Summit is loaded with analysts, journalists, industry leaders and businesses focused on the Longevity Economy. I will be hosting a panel on User Experience with an esteemed panel of experts. Get the full agenda here:

Creating a Better User Experience in the Boomer, Senior and Caregiver Markets – hosted by Lori Bitter, The Business of Aging

Thursday, March 26th 2:45 – 3:35 PM
Mike Lee, Senior Digital Strategy Advisor, Digital Strategy & Operations, AARP
Dedric Reid, Designer and Virtual Reality Evangelist
Greg Skolaut, Marketing Director, Home Instead Senior Care
Andrew Doak, Executive Creative Director, Zillner

On Friday, March 27th, I will host Alix Locke, VP of Strategy, Immersion Active, and Chris Gray, Executive Director of Data & Strategy, Zillner, in a Bootcamp session.

Driving Leads and Sales in the Longevity Marketplace – hosted by Lori Bitter, The Business of Aging
Friday, March 27th 10-11:30

I hope you can join me and the hundreds of professionals in the longevity economy for this annual event!

Q & A with Lori Bitter now live at

Baby boomers are changing the definition of aging in America. Lori Bitter, a consultant who specializes in engaging with mature consumers at The Business of Aging, delves into the changes in American households and their broader social effect in her new book, “The Grandparent Economy.” She answered some questions for on grandparenting, the golden years and deciding where to live.
Q: What is the ‘grandparent economy’?

A: The “grandparent economy” refers to the new expenditure of time and money that arose from the downturn of the economy coupled with the aging of the baby boomers into the grandparent life stage. This new generation of grandparents stepped in to help their adult children and grandchildren in ways that redefined grandparenting. They changed spending patterns, became revolving-purchase influencers and sparked a return to old-fashioned multigeneration households.
Q: When you talk about the new grandparents, what age group are you talking about?

A: The average age of first-time grandparents is 48 and creeping up each year. In general, this number is older on the coasts and tends to be younger in the middle of the country. The median age is 50 for grandmothers and 54 for grandfathers, so the majority of these grandparents are in the baby-boom generation, which is 51 to 69 this year. By 2020 there will be 80 million grandparents, or one in every three adults will be a grandparent.
Q: How has grandparenting changed in the last 20 years?

A: Baby boomers were just “aging into” the grandparent life stage. The grandparents 20 years ago were from the WWII and Silent Generations—characterized by traditional, conservative values and a “retire at 65” mentality that turned many into snowbirds. This generation viewed their grandparenting role just as traditionally. They didn’t meddle. They visited when invited, sent cards and gifts for the holidays, and shared their values of hard work, thrift and delayed gratification. Their idea of legacy was leaving an inheritance of cash and real estate.

Baby boomers rebelled against the status quo and the values of the previous generations. They indulged their children, blurring the lines between friend and parent. They coined the term “helicopter parent” by hovering over their children at every life stage. They used credit to buy now and pay later, and to satisfy their need for immediate gratification for themselves and their children.

As grandparents, they continue to hover and blur the line between parenting and grandparenting. They create places in their homes for their grandchildren: rooms, play areas and cooking stations. And they spend on everything from day-to-day expenses, private schools and cars to college savings plans. The boomer idea of legacy is creating memories and providing experiences now, while they can enjoy it with their families.
Q: How is the baby-boom generation approaching retirement differently? How do they want to spend their golden years?

A: The world of work radically changed for this generation. Few had careers with one employer with a gold watch and fixed pension at the end. Most are working past age 65 as longevity has increased, retirement plans are underfunded, and they are helping to support their adult children and grandchildren. Most boomers have patched together a long career with multiple employers and plan to work into their 70s. Many are becoming entrepreneurs and consulting back to their former companies, forming small companies or exploring franchises. They prioritize their time with their family even though they are still working. Most say the “golden years” of retirement will be in their 80s, when they stop regular work, and that they expect to live in their own home until they die.
Q: How are today’s seniors looking at their living options as they age and their needs change?

A: In general, every generation of seniors would prefer to stay in their current living situation until the end of their life. Older seniors (Silent Generation/WWII) are more likely to choose traditional retirement communities that are age-restricted and provide resort-style amenities with little or no home maintenance. There is a broad range of these types of products in the real estate market that range from a freestanding home in a restricted community to continuing care options that provide necessary health care.

Baby boomers say they will not move to these type of retirement concepts and prefer living in multigenerational communities. Contrary to headlines, many boomers are not downsizing (yet) as the needs of their families take priority. They will likely wait until their grandchildren are older and “launched” before they do so. A small percentage is attracted to planned communities that have rich amenities for a range of ages—pools, tennis and parks—but designated neighborhoods for older adults.

There are 7.2 million intergenerational households in the U.S., including 2.7 million with a grandparent living in. Of those, 4.5 million are grandparent-led households where grandparents are raising or helping to raise grandchildren. More than one-third of those have no parents present and are the sole support for their grandchildren.

Regardless of living style, boomer grandparents report higher levels of engagement and financial support than past generations of grandparents. This desire to be actively involved in their grandchildren’s daily lives reflects one more—perhaps their last—rebellion against the status

AARP Bulletin talks to Lori Bitter on “Selling Older Consumers Short”

Reporter David Wallis of the AARP Bulletin talks with Lori Bitter about how older consumers get overlooked and how to correctly market to them. From the Bulletin: ‘Some innovative companies, including Apple, understand that. Boomers account for 41 percent of people who buy Apple computers, notes Nielsen, and commercials for the iPad reflect this. Its campaign stars the device and a diverse supporting cast using it. “There was a baby and there was a 70-year-old man,” says Lori Bitter, pointing out an admirable strategy that “doesn’t disown anyone.” The message “is timeless and ageless.”‘

Read the entire article

American Marketing Association (AMA) Takes on the Senior Moment

AMA’s Christine Birkner interviewed us about Zillner’s new report on Seniors, All The Wiser, and how we define and market to older consumers. From Lori Bitter: “It’s best to target boomers based on their lifestyles and purchase behaviors—and their core values such as healthy eating or aging well, Bitter says. For example, General Mills’ Cheerios ads focus on heart health, which certainly resonates with boomers, but also could connect with anyone interested in living well, she says. “It’s a way of being ageless. They’re not saying it’s an old person’s cereal or a young person’s cereal. It’s more about the value of healthy eating.”

Read the full article here:

Is grandparenting the ultimate “do-over”?


Lori talked to Huffington Post, on behalf of GRAND Magazine, on the evolution from parenting to grandparenting. Can bad parents make good grandparents? Is there a healing power in these multigenerational relationships. Read more at the link below:

Lori Bitter talks to AARP members at AARP’s Ideas@50+: Multigenerational lifestyles & grandparents with


AARP’s Ideas@50+ event in San Diego featured AARP TEK’s new RealPad roll-out, the introduction of Joanne Jenkins as AARP’s new CEO and stars ranging from Kevin Spacey to Julia Louis Dreyfus to Martha Stewart. – the parent of and hosted AARP members in a special “back porch” environment complete with lemonade and fresh baked cookies. Members heard from experts in senior care, caregiving, and aging in place technology. Paul Irving, Milken Institute, and author of The Upside of Aging, spoke on “Making Cities More Senior Friendly.” Lori did a presentation on “The New Multigenerational Lifestyle,” based on her new book The Grandparent Economy.

Lori speaks at Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit, June 25th 2014

On June 24th, Lori Bitter will moderate a bootcamp session on “Driving Leads and Sales in the Longevity Economy” featuring panelists from Zillner The Senior Agency and Digital Niche.

The bootcamp description:
Nothing has changed the marketing and lead generation landscape like digital and social media. See what innovative companies are doing to stand out, acquire customers and drive sales. Attendees will learn key strategies for leveraging sales with digital and traditional media; best practices in display advertising, social media, content partnerships and video; and using personalization, consumer data and re-targeting to enhance conversion.

The Summit:
The Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit, scheduled for June 25th at Santa Clara University, pairs investors with entrepreneurs who can bring innovative products and services for the longevity economy to market.

The 11th Annual Summit opens with “Breakfast with the Angels” – a networking opportunity for attendees to connect with and learn from angel investors. The Breakfast features a market overview and is convened by Dr. Sanjaya Kumar, Managing Partner, Synepta Group, Inc.

Analyst Briefings lead off the day, moderated by Eric Taub of the New York Times, and includes presentations by Rebecca McKinney of Sabi, Inc.; Laurie Orlov, Aging in Place Technology Watch; and Jody Holtzman, AARP. The Washington Town Hall Meeting will focus on Medicare, Technology and the aging population.

Afternoon sessions focus on Crowd Capital with Daniel Gorfine, Milken Institute; Greg Simon, Poliwogg; and Alisa Cordesius, Indiegogo; followed by Investment Priorities featuring Intel Capital, Cambia Health, Pinnacle Ventures, VNA Health Group, Viant Group, Comcast Ventures, Linkage Ventures, and Aging2.0.

The 2014 Summit also features the eleventh annual Business Plan Competition with a $10,000 grand prize for excellence in one of the following areas: bio-design, medical devices, geriatrics and gerontology, or “aging in place” technology. Plus five companies will Pitch for Distribution to executives from VNA Health Group,,, Linkage Ventures, HomeInstead Inc., Yahoo!, AARP Services and InnovateLTC.

The Summit is preceded on Tuesday, June 24th by Bootcamps specially designed for start-ups and entrepreneurs on the topics of:
• Driving Leads and Sales in the Longevity Economy
• Creating Products and Services in a Regulated Environment
• After the Start-Up: Stories about Building & Scaling a Successful Business
• Tools for Entrepreneurs: Hack Your Way to Success

To learn more about the 2014 Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit and Business Plan Competition, and register, visit

How This Woman Reinvented Herself By Chasing Her Own Brand After 50, John Tarnoff talks with Lori on Huffington Post

For the Year of the Boomer — 2014 is the year the youngest Boomers turn 50 — here is another installment in my survey of 50 Boomers across 10 career categories who have reinvented themselves within the last 10 years.

“After 50, you have to chase your own brand, and become your own kind of leader.” This is Lori Bitter’s advice to Boomers contemplating (or being forced to contemplate) a career reinvention. Bitter has excellent credentials in this department, having “failed upwards,” as she puts it, through a series of high-powered executive positions in the advertising industry, and now running her own branding and marketing consulting practice called The Business of Aging.

Bitter’s moment of truth occurred on her 50th birthday in 2009. As President of JWT Boom, a division of JWT, part of global ad agency WPP, she was in charge of developing marketing and ad strategies focused on the Boomer demographic. But management had other plans: citing their belief that the Boomer market had been terminally crippled by the Recession, they laid her off. Incredulous, she couldn’t believe that she was not being given the opportunity to continue a very successful run, and to manage through the economic crisis. She felt that she had been a “good girl, and had done everything right,” respected the company and had been loyal. Furious, she did something she says now that she never would have been able to do before: she fought back, walking out with her clients and a cadre of close associates to form a new agency, The Continuum Crew. Her strong emotions gave her the strength to stand up for herself, despite threats that JWT would invoke their non-compete clause. But she prevailed, and spent the next few years building a business that was truly hers. Looking back, she reflects “It was like, I hit 50 and I became more me.”

This is one of the keys that distinguishes the reinvention process at this stage in our lives: it has to have a more authentic ring to it. Bitter echoes a feeling that I’m sure we all either feel, or aspire to feeling: life is too short at this point to make any more life or career decisions that don’t feel right. While we may survive in the short term with a job that merely pays the bills, it is a bad idea in the longer term.

At the beginning of her career, Bitter had blossomed under the guidance and mentorship of her first boss, a legendary ad exec. Later, at JWT, she had the imprimatur of a global agency behind her. In her new firm, she realized that she had to rely 100% on herself. “The scariest part was to become the thought leader and put myself out there… to learn social media, and learn PR — stepping up to a place where I never thought I would have to be.”

While the new agency was successful, Bitter began to feel like she was making compromises she didn’t want to make. She realized that the “world was sending me a big karmic message,” and that she had to decide how she wanted to spend her time, and with whom she wanted to spend it. In the end, it became clear that the new venture would need to shut down. If getting fired from JWT was unsettling, closing The Continuum Crew felt like even more of a public failure. But for Bitter, it was the right thing to do. And she gleaned an important philosophical truth from the experience: “You don’t learn unless you get bounced around.” She had learned a great deal running her own shop, and it had made her more aware of new ways of doing business in the online world. So, in her estimation, “I failed to a better place.”

After taking a break, what she calls her “90-day pity party,” Bitter re-emerged with a new focus, which became The Business of Aging. “I had finished a big piece of research for AARP on the grandparent market, and was also becoming a grandparent myself.” She realized that businesses need to know that there is not only value in the Boomer space, but that there is a valuable market that includes parents, moms, and grandparents.

Bitter feels that she has an opportunity in her practice to do a better job of serving all generations, not just older people, and that this authentic personal investment has paid off on many levels: “When you take work that is interesting and meaningful to you, the money shows up. That level of personal honesty about my career has changed all the relationships in my life.”

Reinventions can be planned, or may be forced upon us, but for Bitter, there is one key preparation element that we can’t ignore: “A lot of people, as they age, think they don’t have to keep learning. You have to read the tea leaves: we’re in a world of individualization and self- promotion. If you’re not taking care of yourself, even in a big company, as a personal brand, you’re going to get left behind.” Thanks to John Tarnoff, Career Reinvention consultant for Boomers, Educator, Recovering Hollywood exec.