Quynh Nguyen
Sep 10, 2021

Rethinking age: How to make sense of the 'senior renaissance'

VMLY&R's Vietnam strategy lead offers a reboot for your thinking about consumers who are over 60, as well five recommendations for effectively reaching out to these vibrant, busy individuals.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

Forget the image of people over 60 years of age resting at home with their grandchildren or tending to their gardens. These days Asian consumers over 60 are more active and demanding than ever.

The question is: Do brands and marketers actually understand this fact, and how it plays into the true needs of this population? And what are we doing to meet those needs and provide these consumers with new, meaningful experiences?

According to UNFPA, the United Nations’ sexual and reproductive health agency, the number of older people in the Asia-Pacific region is rising at an unprecedented rate as part of a global phenomenon of population ageing. The agency predicts that by 2050, one in four people in the region will be over 60. That’s around 1.3 billion people, making this a key market segment that cannot and should not be overlooked by marketers.

As a unique cohort, the +60 crowd is growing not only in size but also in influence and sophistication, which means that brands really need to know who they are dealing with in order to connect with them in a meaningful way.

We spoke to a few over-60s on what a day in their life looks like:

  • 'P' is 64. She’s retired but still taking on work as a freelance business consultant and a university lecturer. As a former board member of some top corporations, she is anything but ready to throw in the towel. P is enthusiastic about staying up-to-date on the latest technology. She has an iPad, two iPhones and a laptop to help her conduct her online lectures via Zoom, stay connected with her children and friends, and run workshops for various clients.
  • 'E' owns two businesses—one in logistics and one in F&B—which both require active monitoring every day. As an avid fitness lover, after long hours working on his businesses, he spends equally long hours cycling or playing tennis. He's rarely still, always in motion. New fitness activities, new business ideas, and an active social life with business partners and friends keep his days busier now than when he was in his early 20s.
  • 'H' is a former beauty queen now in her 60s and married to a business tycoon. When she's not babysitting her grandchildren at home, being rich and fabulous, H spends her day in the confines of beauty parlors. Her passion for beauty has not faded with age.

The point? As marketers, innovators and brand owners, we need to remember that these people don't see themselves as “the aging segment". Instead, they continue to pursue their hobbies, their interests and their lifelong passions. Based on our research, however, we have identified three key areas of interest for this age group:

1. Health and longevity

Health has always been the top concern for many generations, and this has been exacerbated by the pandemic.

As brands seek to optimise experiences and offer their consumers healthier, longer and better lives, they are taking their cues from the concept of Blue Zone Living. Coined by bestselling author Dan Buettner, Blue Zones are identified as regions of the world where a higher than usual number of people live much longer than average. Hospitality- and nutrition-sector brands can draw inspiration from these communities in order to innovate their products and services.

Senior telehealth has also emerged as a megatrend for the over-60 population. As the modern family shrinks in size and elderly people are increasingly living alone (instead of within a multigenerational family structure like in the past), seniors are finding themselves in need of timely assistance from healthcare providers. This trend has only become more critical since the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ensuring connectivity and continuity of care for the older generation despite social distancing and lockdown measures is crucial for this group, as its members are at a higher risk of complications and mortality from the virus. Various hospitals around the region have introduced telehealth services, with a focus on elderly patients and those with preexisting conditions. For example, Australia's CareSide helps senior citizens consult doctors and get medical advice digitally. However, as a Singapore study concluded, receptivity to digital health services is often lower among the older generations, who are often hesitant to try or are less computer savvy. This highlights the need to improve digital health acceptance and adoption among the elderly population, taking into consideration the new normal of lockdowns and social distancing.

2. Connectivity and community

When we talk about connectivity, it's good to be mindful that we're not just talking about the technology that connects, but also the human emotions behind this connectivity.

As we grow older, we still need the sense of community in order to keep us engaged and connected. One megatrend which emerged in the last two years is the 'Un-isolated senior', which has seen a slew of brands launching initiatives to connect seniors isolated by the pandemic. Although economies around the world are reopening, many social-distancing restrictions are still in place, causing a prolonged period of isolation for this demographic.

The psychological effect of the virus is worthy of attention. Senior citizens are at a greater risk of feeling isolated, helpless and marginalised during this period. To help them stay connected, Singapore’s Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and partners Microsoft, Cognizant, and Grab launched Virtual Digital Clinics, a program that provides seniors with access to essential digital services from home. Similarly, in the US, an app called Caribu helps seniors stay connected with their families during lockdown through an interactive platform where family members can gather, read together, use digital coloring books, play games and have virtual playdates.

3. Lifelong interests

Be it financial independence, a continued sense of purpose via work, the pursuit of passions or just a lifestyle of leisure, senior people are living longer and have more needs than ever before. And they're not letting their demographic constraints stop them from leading a fulfilling life of experiences.

As brands look to create lifelong consumers, many are pivoting part of their focus towards the interests of the older generations. By uncovering their passions, brands are able to foster spaces that empower older consumers to be themselves and create communities around shared interests. There is a mega trend around 'senior renaissance', where brands are launching initiatives and platforms that help seniors to find and cultivate their independence as they navigate this new chapter of their life. The Umbrella app is a great example of an initiative positioned to revolutionize the gig economy for retired people, helping them to find freelance work based on their interests and fields of experience.

In China, the fitness industry is tapping into the senior market. Many parks in Beijing and Shanghai are popular places for seniors to enjoy exercise, from dancing to aerobics, tai-chi, qigong and more. This trend has led to the establishment of companies like Shangti Fitness Equipment, a seniors-only gym that offers professional coaching, health guidance and physical fitness testing for the elderly.

On the entertainment front, look no further than the almighty Desert Trip, a California music festival dubbed as 'Coachella for old people' with the first iteration bringing together one of the greatest assemblages of classic rock artists, including Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who.

Five takeaways

So what can brands do to capture the hearts and minds of this consumer segment? Here are five pieces of advice.

  1. Age is not the only differentiator: Approaching them as humans is key. They are not just their age. In fact, they are people whose age cannot and will not define who they are.
  2. Acknowledge their diversity: Acknowledge their diversity of needs and passions. Be bold and adaptive. Approach them just as you might millennials or Gen Z.
  3. Build communities: We're social creatures. Brands that have successfully carved out unique spaces and communities that bind and connect the older generations together based on shared interests win.
  4. Be clever about your use of technology: Don't shy away from technology with the assumption that this group is 'low-tech'. Instead, find out the human needs that would facilitate their adoption of technology and use tech innovation to aid the pursuit of their interests.
  5. Exciting experiences is where it’s at: Keep introducing new experiences and new ideas to pique their curiosity. After all, we're human beings, and we will keep growing and evolving and building upon our existing experiences. No matter how old or how young we are, we all yearn to be a part of this exciting and ever changing world.

Quynh Nguyen is strategy lead at VMLY&R Vietnam.

 

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