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Hacking Longevity Market Trends & Consumer Preference

Article Originally Published in Aging Today Newspaper of ASA.org

September-October 2019, Vol xl No. 5

There now is heightened interest in serving the longevity market, as evidenced in The Business of Aging’s 2018 study, Hacking Longevity: A Three Generation Look at Living a 100 Year Life (tinyurl.com/yxdsle49), which painted a landscape of opportunity for companies that can speak authentically to older con­sumers, and help them navigate later life.

 Many companies have built products for different generations of older consumers.

Though the needs of and opportunities to serve this consumer cohort are recog­nized and well-researched, some compa­nies steadfastly chase the youth market, assuming more money and opportunity lie there. Also, new companies and tech­nologies tend to target wealthier older consumers—those who can pay regardless of insurance reimbursement. Companies’ offerings could (and should) have more wide-ranging social impact and greater results with low-income adults, particu­larly those of more diverse backgrounds who may be managing multiple chronic conditions, who are more at risk for social isolation and who may not have technolo­gy to assist in their care. Nonprofit organizations can partici­pate in these marketing opportunities by educating young companies about the re­alities of older adults’ lives, and by work­ing with for-profit companies to provide distribution and pilot programs, bringing new products and services to more vul­nerable older consumers. Many companies claiming to target older adults have built and marketed products to at least two different genera­tions of older consumers and-or caregiv­ers, likely the Greatest and Baby Boom generations. But members of these co­horts differ in how they age—and in how they perceive their aging. Thus, it is criti­cal that companies access key consumer insights, especially because people, as they age, can’t always relate to the brands they once valued, thinking that these brands no longer speak to their needs.

Market Opportunities and Trends Solutions for the Greatest Generation were designed for a “birds of a feather flock to­gether” mindset—think suburban living and resort-style senior living—whereas baby boomers require curation: they value individuality and specialized approaches.

The personal health and fitness con­sumer category is growing. While older generations prefer group programming, the newer generations of older adults pre­fer personal trainers, individualized meal programs and customized vitamin and supplement regimes. With high rates of obesity and diabetes, companies in this space are poised for growth.

Experiences are king. The Baby Boom Generation ushered in the “age of experi­ences,” and technology has enhanced this trend’s growth. Sometimes the language of experience is “memory-making,” espe­cially when it involves a family’s multiple generations. From adventure travel to food and wine to family vacations, older adults prefer to share experiences instead of gifting “things.” They also share these experiences via social platforms or within family circles. This sharing impetus ex­tends to exploring family history and heri­tage, hence the growth of genealogy sites and DNA testing.

A preference for “little luxuries.” The new older adult appreciates not just peak experiences, but also top products— luxuries that span from gourmet ice cream to home wine cellars to designer bifocals to a meal in a celebrity chef’s restaurant. In­herent in all things experiential is sharing the experience on social media.

Home maintenance has created an in­dustry of gig workers who provide services older adults are unwilling to do or can’t do. Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and TaskRabbit all cater to this market. The segment of this home services economy ripe for innovation is the home organization–de-cluttering business. Organizations do exist, e.g., the National Association of Senior Move Man­agers, but this is a fragmented industry. Young families don’t want their parents’ furniture, collectibles and memorabilia. And, as older adults downsize and want to get rid of possessions, there is enormous (and growing) market opportunity.

Home is the center of care. As the ma­jority of older adults plans to age in their homes, professional homecare providers seek innovative ways to deliver care and services supporting the daily activities of older adults and their family caregivers. Applications for voice-activated devices (e.g., Amazon Echo and Google Home) that enable aging in the home are increas­ingly popular, as are services such as gro­cery delivery, medication reminders, care support and rides.

Products that have been used in the home for years are being re-engineered for aging at home. Consumers and care­givers are thinking about toileting and cleaning, maintaining odor control and keeping the home clean and infection-free. Expect robotics to assist with mun­dane in-home tasks.

Pet ownership is on the rise. The Baby Boom Generation has the highest divorce rates and the most aging singles. Pet owner­ship, as a means to avoid social isolation and loneliness, is more prevalent in this cohort. This indicates soaring sales of high-end pet food, pet insurance and accessories. This market also has created a service economy around in-home grooming, dog walking and sitting, veterinary services and more.

Financial services. The 2018 Hacking Longevity study revealed elders’ lack of understanding of financial products for retirement saving and, like other studies, showed that the Baby Boom Generation is understandably stressed about having enough money as they age. There is inno­vation around annuities and reverse mortgages, but these products have re­ceived mixed reviews, so selling any new versions is difficult. Consumers need more education to understand these prod­ucts’ uses and value.

The cannabis market has a Wild West feel to it.

Cannabis and CBD for pain manage­ment. The biggest category of consumer interest over the past two years is canna­bis and CBD. As states legalize medical and recreational cannabis, older adults are embracing it for pain management, help with sleeping and more. CBD prod­ucts have flooded the market with little evidence of efficacy for all of the claims made. This category has a Wild West feel to it, as start-ups appear daily; there is no clear market leader, but revenue projected by 2022 stands at $32 billion.

Companies in these trending catego­ries seek partners, just as they do inves­tors. While it can take for-profit and non­profit businesses time, imagination and key consumer research to create valuable partnerships, consumers benefit most from a careful development process. n

Lori Bitter is a marketing, research and development consultant, speaker and au­thor in the Bay Area, and author of The Grandparent Economy: How Baby Boom­ers Are Bridging the Generation Gap (Ithaca, NY: Paramount; 2015).

Assisted Living or Aging in Place? How to Choose

Our thanks to Caroline James of elderaction.org, for this contribution to our blog.

 

Where to live when you’re elderly is the type of decision you want to make before life forces you to do so. If you don’t, you may discover you have fewer options than you’d hoped. Seniors who have a disability are sometimes unable to return home, and without time to spare, they have no choice but to move into whichever care facility has space.

Unfortunately, it’s also exactly the type of decision you want to avoid. No one likes thinking about losing their independence or developing an age-related disability. However, you can’t ignore the fact that two in three seniors will need long-term care as they age.

So, how do you choose where to live and receive care when you’re older? These are the three most important factors to consider.

Location

Some communities are more suited to aging in place than others. For instance, seniors who live near medical facilities, caregiving agencies, public transit, and other important amenities have an easier time aging at home than rural seniors.

Care Needs

Seniors who need a lot of daily support benefits from assisted living, where they don’t have to worry about coordinating and budgeting for in-home care. On the other hand, seniors in good health can retain full independence by aging in place. So, consider your health today and how it may change in the future; if you have chronic health conditions or mobility problems now, you’re more likely to need full-time care later on.

Cost

Assisted living averages $48,000 a year — and that cost is steadily rising. While expensive, assisted living may cost less than you’d spend aging at home. At $22 an hour, the average cost of part-time care is lower than assisted living, but seniors who need round-the-clock care can save money by moving to assisted living.

How to Choose an Assisted Living Facility

Assisted living communities offer a supportive living environment where seniors can get help with day-to-day activities, such as taking medications, preparing meals, and managing personal care. Many assisted living facilities offer perks like fitness centers, gardens, and spas.

Since every assisted living community has its own personality, you’ll want to tour several in the San Francisco area before making a decision. Keep in mind that different communities offer different levels of independence. While some have communal facilities and cater specifically to seniors needing in-home care, others offer apartments and studios for seniors who are still self-sufficient but want some basic assistance with housekeeping and healthcare. Prices also range widely in San Francisco, with assisted living costs ranging from $1,695 to $11,270 a month. Factor your budget and your needs to narrow your search for the right assisted living facility.

How to Age in Place

If you’re in good health, you may be thinking of aging in place. However, are you sure your home is the right one to age in? While most seniors prefer to age in place, many don’t live in a home suited to senior living. They might not pose an obstacle now, but staircases, narrow doorways, and dimly lit spaces become a safety hazard in your 80s.

Some seniors opt to remodel their current home while others choose to buy a new house better suited to aging in place. When making your decision, consider not only the cost but also convenience. The cost savings offered by downsizing may be modest, but moving to a newer home means fewer repairs to worry about during retirement. You’ll also be able to settle in within weeks instead of waiting months for a remodel to finish.

Whatever you choose, don’t wait to think about where you’ll live when you’re older. If you decide to move to assisted living, you’ll need time to prepare your budget and find the perfect facility for your golden years. And if you decide that you want to age in place, starting now means you have many years to enjoy your ideal home.

 

Happy Grandparents’ Day!

If you’ve read my book, The Grandparent Economy, you know that my interest in the lifestage is both personal and professional. I was raised by my paternal grandparents from infancy. It was something of a novelty in the late 50’s and early 60’s. Today that is a much different story.

The origin of Grandparents’ Day

In the 70’s, Marian McQuade was a champion of intergenerational relationships, urging young people to adopt a grandparent and to have older adults in their lives. She encouraged West Virginia’s Governor to recognize an annual Grandparents’ Day. In 1973, Senator Jennings Randolph of West Virginia introduced a resolution to the senate to make Grandparents’ Day a national holiday. In 1978 President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation making the first Sunday of September after Labor Day “National Grandparents’ Day.”

This proclamation cites the purpose, “”…to honor grandparents, to give grandparents an opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and to help children become aware of strength, information, and guidance older people can offer”.

Grandparents Today

Nearly one third of all families in the US are grandparent households, largely due to the aging of the huge Baby Boomer population. Baby Boomers are a new breed of grandparents – more engaged and financially involved – maintaining their “helicopter” status well into grandparenthood.

The other side of the grandparent experience are grandparents who step in to raise their grandchildren, just as mine did more than 50 years ago. More than 2.5 million grandparents are raising their grandchildren. This transcends race and income. The growing numbers are largely due to extended deployments of parents, death of parents, and the opioid crisis. As the opioid crisis affects multiple generations, we are seeing an increase in great grandparents as the primary caregivers for children as well. Many older adults do this at the expense of their own health and retirement savings.

In May of 2017, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania introduced the “Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act” with the support from 40 older adult and advocacy groups. This act was signed into law in July. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will coordinate the work of a Federal Advisory Council to provide resources and best practices to support grandparents and other relatives raising children. It’s a great start in providing for the physical and emotional well-being of these special families.

How to Celebrate Grandparents’ Day

I have some thoughts to share from a variety of my favorite organizations.

Bridges Together

In addition to Grandparents’ Day, it’s Intergenerational (IG) Awareness Month – a month set aside to raise awareness about and celebrate the benefits of intergenerational connections. Bridges Together invites you share your stories of intergenerational relationships:

Share the power of intergenerational relationships. Write a 500 word story, create a piece of art (visual or performing) and submit it to the Kraemer IG Story Contest.  The contest is now open and will remain open until Oct. 31.  Cash prizes will be awarded.  Read more and enter now!

Loved1

Do you have a grandparent or great grandparent living away from you and your family?
Loved1 delivers a gift box of thoughtfully curated products that focus on healthy living, quality of life, nutrition, and fun. You receive an email detailing the items in the box and an Engagement Guide to encourage great discussions and interactions with your family member.

GRAND Magazine

GRAND – the digital magazine for living the ageless life – is now available for FREE. If you are a grandparent, it is the ultimate guide to this stage of life. If you know a grandparent who would enjoy GRAND, subscribe for them as a gift! Check out GRAND’s site as well for more excellent information. To get your FREE subscription, click here!

Making Your Mental Health a Priority After the Loss of Your Spouse

Our thanks to Elmer George, Elderville.org,  for this contribution to our blog: 

A few months ago, my husband’s mom passed away. She had cancer and spent her final days in hospice. I must admit watching my father-in-law deal with the loss has been truly eye-opening. My mother-in-law not only did most of their cooking and cleaning, but managed their finances as well. We’ve been helping my father-in-law work through his grief, while also helping him learn to live on his own. I’ve shown him how to cook some easy recipes, my husband has taken over his finances, and we’ve tried to get additional help here and there to fill in the gaps. I’ve learned a lot about what I need to be doing to help my own parents as they age, and I’d love to share my experiences with others.

The loss of a spouse is a devastating life event. For seniors, many who have been with their partners for decades and decades, it can be an enormous blow to their mental health. Not only do you face crippling sadness, loneliness, and depression, but you have to cope while also handling final arrangements, dealing with life insurance policies and the will, and doing what you can to avoid clashing with family. That’s why it’s vital that you make your mental well-being your #1 priority during this trying time.

Don’t try to speed up your grief

“Numerous research studies have demonstrated spousal bereavement is a major source of life stress that often leaves people vulnerable to later problems, including depression, chronic stress, and reduced life expectancy,” notes Psychology Today.

It is counterproductive to try to convince yourself to get over your grief, or to listen to people who tell you that there should be a time limit on your mourning. While prolonged depression stemming from the loss of a spouse can lead to health problems, attempting to suppress grief can also be incredibly detrimental. Know that you are allowed to feel sad, and never try to speed up your grieving process.

One of the best ways to begin the grieving process is to have a service for your spouse. Whether the service is a funeral or for cremation, this is an important first step. A service honors your spouse, brings family together, begins the healing process, and may bring loved ones the closure they need.

Avoid short-term fixes that can become bad habits

You might think that it’s okay to develop a few bad habits because you’re just getting through the hard times and these new habits aren’t part of your normal lifestyle, just part of the grieving process. But relying on alcohol, smoking, drugs, or overeating to help you cope with your emotional pain is even more dangerous for seniors than for younger people. Alcohol, for example, exacerbates mental health problems like anxiety and depression and is a leading cause of heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Not only that, but seniors tend to already be on more medications, which can have negative interactions with other substances.

Focus on eating right and exercising

The best thing you can do for your brain is to eat right and exercise. Getting enough physical activity helps our brain produce chemicals that improve our mood. What we put in our bodies is our fuel, and if you feed yourself subpar fuel, you’re going to have poor performance. If you want to help your brain battle depression and anxiety, stick to a healthy diet and be sure to get at least 30-45 minutes of moderate activity per day.

“Research in humans shows that exercise can stimulate the brain’s ability to maintain old network connections and make new ones vital to healthy cognition,” says the National Institutes of Health.

Force yourself to be social

When dealing with the loss of a spouse, many seniors tend to self-isolate. But this is one of the worst things you can do for your mental health. Talking with family and friends is one of the best ways to overcome excessive grief. “The most compassionate self-action you can take is to find a support system of caring friends and relatives who will provide the understanding you need,” says Oprah.com. Another way to talk to people about your grief is to join a grief group or seek counseling. These options may be available either locally or online.

There is no magic bullet for dealing with the devastating grief that comes with losing a spouse. But if you make a point to focus on your own mental health, you’ll be much more likely to succeed.

About Elderville.org:

Elderville.org is a resource guide for everything related to seniors. We connect our readers to reliable sources on the internet so they don’t have to spend time searching. We have safety tips for daily activities, and resources that range from healthcare to volunteering.

Article & quick links provided by ElderVille: https://elderville.org/

Find your helpful quick links here for Seniors:

Can I Get a Mortgage if I’m Retired?
https://www.creditsesame.com/blog/mortgage/can-i-get-a-mortgage-if-i-m-retired/

A Guide to Downsizing for Seniors and Their Loved Ones
https://www.redfin.com/blog/seniors-guide-to-downsizing

Should You Own or Rent a Home in Retirement?
https://www.fool.com/mortgages/2017/05/04/should-you-own-or-rent-a-home-in-retirement.aspx

Home Modifications Increase Senior Safety
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/home-modifications-increase-senior-safety.htm

How to Save for a Down Payment on a House
https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-save-for-a-down-payment-on-a-house-1289847

7 Home Improvement & Remodeling Ideas That Increase Home Value (And What To Avoid)
https://www.moneycrashers.com/7-home-improvements-to-increase-its-value/

Home Construction & Design Techniques for Child Safety
https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/child-safety-home-design-and-projects/

How to Deter Burglars: Keeping Potential Robbers Away From Your Home
https://www.asecurelife.com/how-to-deter-burglars/

The Business of Aging reports on how older adults are “Hacking Longevity”

Hacking Longevity is the first study to examine how three generations of adults over the age of 50 – Generation X, Baby Boomers, and Silent Generation – are thinking about and planning for longer lives. Until now, the idea of increased longevity has been mostly conceptual and aspirational. Through a rigorous research process, Hacking Longevity examination, provides insights on how brands and organizations can better serve consumers of the longevity economy. The study was conducted in the Fall of 2017 and Winter of 2018 and led by Lori Bitter at The Business of Aging.

The study debuted at AARP’s Living 100 event in Washington DC in April. This timeline illustrates key inflection points in people’s lives as they age, as revealed in the data. To learn more about Hacking Longevity, join us in June at The Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit where we will provide a briefing for attendees.

Hacking Longevity was conducted in partnership with Collaborata, and underwritten by AARP, Wells Fargo Advisors, GreatCall, and Proctor and Gamble Ventures.

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 You Are 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