Demographers still don’t get new aging


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Living longer is no guarantee of living well.

As the Trends Research Institute has forecast for years, marketers, retailers and developers of health care products for the aging fall short of maximizing the purchasing power of the huge boomers/seniors population. Why? Their focus is almost exclusively on coping products and services.

As we forecast in the Winter 2015 Trends Journal: “Until marketers and product designers switch their focus from creative marketing to creative aging, they will not find the sweet spot from which flows new products and services attractive to the valuable senior demographic.”

A critical underpinning of this potential trend line is how an aging population will see their lives’ quality improve if they are within arm’s length of activities and products they finding enriching.

That’s why sophisticated towns and smaller cities with the feel of larger urban areas — but sans the high costs and anxieties of massive population centers — would do well to market themselves as vibrant communities for older adults.

The number of retirement-age people residing in American suburban areas near major cities increased between 2000 and 2010, according to census data. Many demographers read this largely as an exodus from central urban areas, an escape from stresses and costs of big cities. 

US News and World Report concluded in an article in March 2015 that older Americans “are moving to walkable neighborhoods in smaller cities, ideally with public transportation and less traffic congestion. So it’s goodbye to New York, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, and hello to Savannah, Ga., Austin, Texas, and Portland, Ore.”

But the “walkable” undercurrent of this trend line is a small piece of what’s behind the emerging interest among boomers and seniors to be near activities that challenge the more passive qualities of traditional senior living: warm climates, drive to everything, nap all day, join the local VFW. More critical is access to activities, products and services that enhance quality of life, brain, spirit and body.

That’s why small cities and towns outside larger cities that can lay claim to a vibrant arts community, small business-friendly segments, unique living spaces and access to quality and alternative health services are especially positioned to attract older Americans.

 

Moreover, retirement-age people are working well past traditional retirement age. As such, smaller, sophisticated cities that support entrepreneurism — especially entrepreneurial environments that encourage well-being and creative living lifestyles — would be wise to brand themselves as senior-friendly for the new aging world.

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