The first wave of baby boomers, about 2.4 million of them born in 1946, will turn 70 in 2016. The generation that turned popular culture and societal norms upside down will confront the rigors of growing old, face life-and-death decisions, and grapple with difficult lifestyle choices.
This initial wave of boomers led the charge in a period of dramatic change, fighting war, racial, gender and economic inequality. The 1960s, especially, saw social values shift widely, fueled by mega protests that brought turmoil, disorder and change.
But aging boomers eventually shed their rebellious nature, settling into the material comforts of modern life. Along the way, they created a pathway to progressively deteriorating values so personified in Wall Street greed, the utter absence of anti-war movements, declining liberties, political polarization and lower aesthetic standards. Now, with increasing frequency, they’re entering a state of declining health while — courtesy of Big Pharma and the vast Medical Industrial Complex — they’re able to live longer by reaching for a pill or hooking up to a machine.
ARTFUL AGING NOT YET EMBRACED
For several years, the Trends Research Institute has been closely watching and analyzing how marketers, retailers and the health product and service industries serve the needs of global aging. Our “Artful Aging” trend line forecast that the coping and even fundamental survival needs of aging boomers and seniors were being addressed by products and services that treat but don’t cure illness or debilitating physical conditions. And we said that was happening at the expense of focusing on the naturally creative and self-healing potential of aging individuals.
As we wrote in the Summer 2015 Trends Journal:
“Of all the trends we forecast, aging with grace is a megatrend in the making that still lurks under the mainstream radar. Trends are born, they grow, mature, reach old age and die… a natural organic process. How to stay healthy, live longer — and most importantly, live with grace and dignity — is a trend still in its infancy. From entrepreneurs to big business, the field is wide open for new products, procedures and facilities for keeping the young at heart vibrant throughout old age. Whole-health healers will be in demand. Strenuous workouts and diet fads will increasingly be replaced by holistic health approaches. Whole-health healers will deliver all-natural modalities, products and services as a foundation for enhanced longevity.
As this trend matures, demand will grow for longevity centers: body, mind and spirit centers where abused health is restored and the in-shape get in better shape. Ranging from family-size operations staffed by a few specialists to resort-size clinics, longevity centers will become a multi-billion-dollar industry.
The energy and risk-taking spirit of early boomers, long dormant during the high-pressure career and family-raising decades, is ready to be awakened. While in most places across the globe we are living longer than ever, the added years are too often marked by being “tethered to oxygen tanks and dialysis machines, or counting the hours between pills.” (Trends Journal, Summer 2015.)
Further, boomers are working well into their 60s, and beyond, most out of financial necessity. As recent data show, people over 50 are carrying record-setting debt.
In 2016, the potential for on-trend marketers, retailers, service providers and manufacturers to rake in the gold by targeting an older population ripe for new experiences and challenges has never been greater.
The rise of Artful Aging in the year the first boomer turned 70 will be evident in these areas:
» Health and fitness practitioners, even those tied to large corporations, will devise products that stress enhancing quality of life above “coping with life.” Examples of this forecast are already emerging. Fitness giant Beachbody, for example, known for its extreme workout regimens, recently debuted a Tai Chi-based vigorous exercise program catering to seniors. Jerry Mathers, aging boomer and star of the 1950s sitcom Leave it to Beaver, is the face of a new all-natural program for combating Type II diabetes without hard medications. And on the mom-and-pop level, similar programs and services are being developed.
» Longevity centers stressing natural living and healing practices will emerge strong, educating seniors on healthy-living techniques that can redirect them from medication dependency. Increasing numbers of aging boomers are becoming comfortable with natural-healing practices to prevent and reverse serious illnesses. The high cost of medical care and medication is further fueling this trend. Longevity centers, healing emporiums, health retreats and homeopathic practices will become central activity centers for advancing natural healing and good health.
» Smaller cities and progressive communities outside larger urban areas will increasingly become attractive to aging boomers who want to be near activities that keep them stimulated, energized and inspired. Niche communities, too, will emerge that cater to the spiritual or creative dimensions of growing older, such as the Elder-Spirit Community in Virginia, which provides a spiritual setting, or the NoHo Senior Artists Colony in California, which provides an environment for seniors interested in dance, art and screenwriting.
» Educational travel is another area that will become increasingly attractive to seniors who can afford leisure-travel activities. Trips that combine learning experiences with traditional tourism will grow in popularity for this group. TJ