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Why do we celebrate Grandparents Day?

National Grandparents Day is celebrated the Sunday following Labor Day each year. Marian McQuade 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!

Grandparenting, as a lifestage, stands out as the most positive transition in later life. If you examine the lifestages that occur after the age of fifty, most have to do with loss. Many grandparents see it as a continuation of their lives and families, even after they are gone. Others see it as a “do-over.” As busy parents they may have spent less time than they wanted with their children, but as grandparents they are available and happy to be with their children’s children.

grandparent-econ-THUMBNow that the Baby Boom generation is becoming grandparents, the sheer size of the market is compelling. There are more than 100 million people over the age of fifty. By 2020, 80 million older adults will be grandparents. That is one in three US adults will be in this lifestage. For marketers the grandparenting lifestage represents a huge opportunity.

First, marketers have to overcome outdated stereotypes of grandmothers with buns and rolling pins, or granddads in rockers. With $400 billion in spending on goods and services, adults 55+ are outspending younger consumers two to one online. Becoming a first-time grandparent is a huge trigger for spending. Recent studies, however, show that spending remains consistent as a grandchild ages. This has been more true since the recession and the gradual recovery. Where once grandparents helped with “extras” like trips, cars and education, more than half report helping their adult children with the expenses of everyday life – tuition, clothing, insurance and more.

The majority of Baby Boomer grandparents are more educated than previous generations, and are still working, with no retirement in sight. With increased spending on their adult children, these grandparents are often providing some type of care for elderly loved ones as well. Hence the term “sandwich generation.”

As we celebrate grandparents the social impact of having older adults in the lives of children is undeniable. Margaret Mead said, “Somehow we have to get older people back close to growing children if we are to restore a sense of community, a knowledge of the past, and a sense of the future.” Now it is time to recognize the financial contributions as well and respect their role as dynamic consumers across nearly product category.

To learn more about today’s grandparents and their role in lives of their families, get your copy of The Grandparent Economy, available now on amazon.com.

Four Ways Your Wrong About Boomers

I am very proud to have received this great review from the National Association of Realtors for my book, The Grandparent Economy: How Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap. Following is the blog:

It seems everywhere you turn these days there’s some new diatribe against the generational focus of commentaries on society. It’s boomers attacking millennials attacking boomers… Heck, we even played an April Fool’s joke based on the trend a couple of weeks ago.

As someone who’s always bristled at generational stereotypes, I’m cheering those who are finally agreeing we need to stop playing the millennials vs. boomers card in the media (as no one talks about generation x anymore, that needn’t be halted of course). But as I was working on the upcoming feature for our May/June issue about how brokers are attracting the next generation of real estate pros, I found myself unable to avoid the term “millennial.”

Is your image of grandparents woefully outdated? Photo: bandini, Morguefile.

Are your ideas of grandparents woefully outdated? Photo: bandini, Morguefile.

That’s when I realized it has nothing to do with the terms; it’s the inaccurate stereotypes everyone should be finished with. And that’s why I really liked Lori K. Bitter’s The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers Are Bridging the Generation Gap (Paramount Market Publishing, Inc., 2015). Not only is she seeking to help business owners and marketers better understand the boomer generation through the lens of grandparenthood using actual data, but she also busts a fair amount myths about boomers and grandparents in the process. Among them:

  1. Age and aversion to technology: Bitter says if you do an image search on grandparents in Google you’ll likely see “cartoon caricatures of couples with gray buns, sagging bellies and boobs, and canes… In reality, only 20 percent of grandparents are 75 or older.” She also points out that grandparents not only outspend other generations in traditional shopping environments, but they also “are outspending younger consumers two to one online… and they account for one in four mobile transactions.”
  2. Multi-gen housing as a temporary reaction to recession. Bitter, who was raised by her grandparents, points out that humans have been living with several generations under one roof since the beginning of civilization, and in many cultures around the world, it’s more common than it currently is in the United States. But as we become increasingly multicultural, it’s important to examine our biases and look at the facts: 2.7 million grandparents are raising small children on their own, and that doesn’t encompass the many who are sharing the task of raising children with the kids’ biological parents. She also points out that, far from being temporary, the trend will probably grow as people are living longer, and notes that grandfamilies occur in every area of the country and represent all income levels, races, and ethnicities.
  3. Midlife crises. Rather than fearing their advancing age, boomers are becoming less concerned with numbers as they mature. Bitter says this is the beginning of wisdom, or “the centered sense of the timelessness of all things.” She suggests thinking of marketing in the same way you might universal design: If you create something that can be used by anyone, it will be appreciated by everyone.
  4. The “Me Generation.” Bitter shows how the common trope of younger generations being full of themselves goes astray: All young people project that sort of bravado to a certain extent. “The images of self-entitled, self-centered, and materialistic boomers do not sit well, and the majority of those surveyed believe advertisers and reporters frequently get it wrong. From a developmental perspective self-involvement and materialism are features of a striving lifestyle typical of younger adults, which would be accurate for any generation, not just the Baby Boom.”

Though this isn’t a book specifically about real estate, Bitter includes numerous examples of housing communities that are successfully meeting the needs of this new batch of grandparents. And she clearly thinks highly of REALTOR® outreach to consumers: “Has an ad ever brought a tear to your eye? …Fast forward to the recent ads by the National Association of REALTORS® about the ‘American Dream of home ownership’ featuring a grandfather and his grandson. Mature consumers appreciate the art of a story well told.”

Now that’s a stereotype I think we can all live with.

Meg White

Meg White is the multimedia web producer for REALTOR® Magazine and administrator of the magazine’s Weekly Book Scan blog. Contact her at mwhite[at]realtors.org.

 

The Boomer economy: Caring has its costs

A lot has been written about Baby Boomers, who are doing a lot more to boost the economy than they are given credit for — a lot more — says author Lori Bitter.

Bitter, author of “The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boomers are Bridging the Generation Gap,” says Boomers are not only taking in their parents, but sometimes several generations of family members who have not recovered from the Great Recession.

The problem, she says, is that they are doing it all at great peril to their own retirement.

“The real story is they may have two or three generations of people living in their homes that they were working their butts off to support,” she says. “This generation just gets bashed. When you see what is really happening. It is more interesting that the headlines and misunderstood labels.

“They are literally holding up the economy by taking care of families who haven’t made it through the recession too well, taking care of their elders and grandchildren,” she says. “Even if they aren’t totally supporting them, they are contributing to all those households.”

Not only are they endangering their own retirement by supporting family members, but they are also doing it at the expense of their own health, she says.

“Fifty is typically is where you have your personal health concerns,” she says. You look at your health in a different way. Middle-age people are managing a number of chronic conditions of their own. While caring for people at the older end of the spectrum or younger end, they’re managing doctor appointments of others, and push their own health care needs to the bottom of the list. They can see the decline of person they are they are taking care and simultaneously ignore their own health. We urge this population to take care of their own health. If their health problems get worse, the whole system breaks down.”

Lori’s Interview with Barry Moltz on Business Insanity Radio

I was recently interviewed by Barry Moltz on Business Insanity Talk Radio. You can listen here:

 

“The Grandparent Economy” on Yahoo Finance

Marketing to Grandparents

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Abraham Maslow never intended to be a marketer. But when it comes to creating products, services, and messaging for older adults, his “13 personality attributes of the self-actualizing person” from Toward a Psychology of Being provide focused guidelines for creating a great creative brief. Recall that self-actualization is the realization of one’s full potential, with a focus outside of self.

Many of the grandparents we spoke with for The Grandparent Economy considered this phase of their development to have begun with the birth of that first grandchild. It is described as a turning point, as a time when the future comes into sharper focus. There is a realization of their mortality, and of family life continuing after they are gone. Relationships take on greater meaning and a sense of selflessness takes over. Learn More →

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 . . .

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

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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: http://www.asaging.org/aia Learn More →

Is grandparenting the ultimate “do-over”?

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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 here.

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

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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. Move.com – the parent of realtor.com and seniorhousingnet.com 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.