Few businesses have truly tapped the revenue opportunities that exist in the Baby Boomer and senior markets, according to two speakers last week at the 10th annual International Council on Active Aging (ICAA) Conference in Orlando.
For fitness and wellness businesses, one of those opportunities is in providing wellness and lifestyle specialists, Colin Milner, CEO of the ICAA, said in his keynote presentation. The health care system lacks the level of staffing and expertise to easily accommodate large numbers of older adults—particularly those seeking preventive services rather than treatments.
“There are opportunities for individuals to provide not just personal training but also wellness and prevention training, and to act as life coaches or advisors in other areas as well,” Milner said. “People are paying to ensure they age well in all aspects of their lives—health, nutrition, fitness, finances, travel and other quality-of-life pursuits.”
Because so many sectors are late in recognizing the needs, desires and value of the Boomer market, untold opportunities exist for companies to serve this burgeoning demographic, Milner said.
In addition, fundamental shifts in the nation’s largest demographic group, the Baby Boomers, are leading to perceptual changes that will influence the market for Boomer-targeted products and services, according to Steve French, managing partner at the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), who spoke at the conference.
The oldest Baby Boomers are beginning to turn 65 years old, and the youngest are in their late 40s.
“As Boomers adjust to the new challenges of aging, they’re realizing they have to realign some of their long-held attitudes and behaviors,” French said. “As a result, they are re-inventing themselves, becoming more self-aware and self-responsible, and taking a pragmatic approach that will drive various industries forward.”
NMI’s Healthy Aging/Boomer Database, an annual survey of more than 3,000 older adults in the United States, identified trends that are shaping the Boomer market.
One of those trends is aging healthfully. Fewer than one out of five consumers over 50 years old are looking for the next fountain of youth. For them, it is not about not aging; it is about healthy aging and accepting who they are now while aiming for a healthier version, French said.
Boomers are not accepting stereotypes of old age.
“Fifty-plus consumers aren’t looking to buy big-button phones or ‘I’ve fallen down and can’t get up’ monitoring devices,” French says. “Close to half are searching for new self-care methods to prolong health and vitality, and two-thirds optimistically proclaim that the best years of their life are still ahead of them.”
Boomers and their parents number more than 110 million. With more than $2 trillion in spending power, they are 47 times richer than their younger counterparts, and account for 55 percent of discretionary income in the United States, Milner said. Yet, the vast majority of marketing dollars are spent on adults 35 and younger.
“That’s business suicide,” Milner said, adding that when marketers do focus on this group, 75 percent of them get a failing grade.
“Older consumers say that marketing targeted to them is patronizing and stereotypical,” Milner said. “Simply put, it fails to reflect their stage of life.”
Milner suggests that marketers take the time to fully understand this group’s needs, dreams, desires, expectations and capabilities. For fitness facility operators who want to target this group, they must commit to the market by ensuring their products, services, staff, philosophies and procedures are in line with what this group seeks. These businesses also must be visible in the places that older adults frequent for their information—TV, newspapers, Facebook, as examples. It would also bode well for these business owners to become an advocate for older consumers. Whatever these businesses do, they should avoid promoting useless and expensive “anti-aging” products or stating that a product or service is geared to “seniors” if it really isn’t.
“A Nielsen study done a couple of years ago showed that, by ignoring Boomers, marketers could miss roughly $230 million in sales of consumer packaged goods alone, or around 55 percent of the overall sales in the United States,” Milner said. “However, the opposite is also true. Those who focus on this group in a meaningful way stand to gain their fair share of the older consumer’s business.”