Older Workers and Consumers

Internet Readings
International Plan of Action on Ageing
Claim for Age Discrimination (US Law)
Cross cultural Perspectives 
Old age across cultures and time

In general the world is getting older.  Previously, while individuals may have lived into advanced stages of life, their numbers and proportion the total population were not high. The
twentieth century, however, has witnessed in many regions of the world the:

     control of prenatal and infant mortality
     a decline in birthrates
     improvements in nutrition, basic health care, and
     the control of diseases

General world trends show (UN statistics):

a marked increase in the population over the age of 60 years is expected in the future, particularly in the segment of those aged 80 years and over;
in many countries, the increase in the proportion of the over-60 population is expected to become apparent over the next few decades, and especially during the first quarter of the  21st century
     increasingly women will constitute the majority of these elderly populations
Some researchers (Cowgill and Homes) have found some universals

     There is a general tendency in old age to shift toward

                    1. more sedentary, more advisory and supervisory activities,
                    2. those involving more mental exertion than physical  and
                    3. those directed toward group maintenance more than economic production

In all societies the mores prescribe some mutual responsibility within the family as between old people and their adult children saving for old age appears to be a near universal desire and effort even if it is not always successful all societies value life and seek to prolong it even in old age.

Ageism is NOT universal

there is an inverse relationship between development and the status of older people elderly are viewed most favorably in primitive societies

Three differences in attitudes towards older people
    1. death is not viewed in Western society as a natural part of the life cycle.  Fewer negative attitudes in East and Middle East societies
    2. older individuals are viewed as productive in many -small-scale traditional societies.
    3. not all societies are youth oriented.

Unless we can keep older, productive people working, labor tightens will slow down the economy, especially after the baby boomers retire!!

Two Age Related Problems
1) Companies shed older, high paid employees and look for your people who will accept lower salaries and will work longer hours

2) More older workers are opting to retire earlier (worst case is Finland where 80% retire before age 60)
Age discrimination wastes talent

UK age discrimination costs the economy 5.5 billion pounds sterling ($8.25 billion)

By the year 2025, the elderly population of the world will total 1.2 billion

US -76 million in the US are older than 50
     by 2025 more than 9 million will be over 85
     by 2050, 40% of Americans will be 50 or older

Japan - the number of Japanese over 80 years old will grow to 9.5 million by 2025 (Japan has more of the 'oldest of old)

Europe - 1/5 of Europe's 320 million citizens are 60 or older (20 million are above 74)
     by 2010 23% f the population will be in their 60s
     retired people over 65 will rise by 25-40 percent in 30 years

Developing countries

Elderly make up a smaller proportion of the population but there numbers are growing much faster. This area will face the most challenges
Aging is also a gender issue as most of the world's elderly are women (as are most caregivers of elderly)


Most countries have age discrimination laws but the enforcement varies.  Even in the US, age discrimination is difficult to prove.

In the US age discrimination comes under ADEA. The ADEA prohibits an employer from treating an employee age 40 or over differently than an employee under 40 because of an
employee's age.  The ADEA was designed to eliminate the termination of older employees based on stigmatizing and false stereotypes about older workers such as  they are:

      less adaptable to change
     out of touch with technology
     slower than younger employees doing the jobs
     less committed to working longer hours
     more prone to illness

Note: recent legislation makes it legal to fire an older, higher paid worker and hire a younger. less expensive worker as long as the decision is based on cost-cutting and not on a particular
bias against people over 40


Despite this market being very attractive, few businesses are marketing to it.

Living longer - men can expect to live until 81, women until 84

They are well off thanks to social security, medicare, medicaid, company pensions, rising stock markets, and a sharp increase in the value of their homes

They will leave their children $10 trillion

Differences between older and younger consumers in terms of developmental psychology. You need to understand that the mature mind differs from the younger mind. Older
consumers respond to marketing that reflects:

  •      autonomy and self-sufficiency - have paid their mortgage ,raised their kids, etc.
  •      social and spiritual connectedness, altruism- connected by greater number of clubs, need to give back
  •      personal growth, and (ed. Programs popular)
  •      revitalization - like to get recharged

In direct marketing to older people:

  • Avoid stereotyping - are not poor, last generation that enjoyed personal relationships with shops, conservative
  • Get to the point- experience means it is hard to fool them, core values like frugality, responsibility and caution
  • Speak their language - use their jargon--non-tech talk. Emphasis the value of experience and wisdom
  • Do not patronize - last thing they want is to be treated like children
  • Educate as you explain - they know the better informed they are, the better choice they'll make
  • Provide simple to read literature - also consider loss of sight
  • Be positive not pushy - give them information and let them have time
  • Instill trust - they have lots of word of mouth
  • Get personal - last of personal communicators
  • Segment and sub segment - not all over 50 belong to same generation!