North Bay Business Journal


Healthier longevity for many older adults has created demand for new products and services across multiple industries. Since more than 70 million baby boomers will have hit age 65 between now and 2030, this market will continue to grow. As the business sector captures this thriving niche market—which seeks age-appropriate products and services—companies can expect to see their profits soar.

But to ensure success, companies first must understand the needs and values of their customers. They must grasp that this aging demographic has grand expectations as they begin their second half of life. Baby boomers are reinventing themselves, exhibiting new vitality, drive and desire for a good future. They want new adventures that include self-exploration, starting a new career or lifestyle, and world travels. They also want more ease in maintaining their health and minimizing the realities of aging bodies.

By shifting market research to aging baby boomers, business energy and activity has tapped into this profitable over 50 market, which is approximately $7.6 trillion annually, reports AARP.

Over the next 20 years, spending by people over 50 is expected to increase by 58%, according to AARP. Nielsen Media Research predicts that in less than five years this population segment will not only control 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income, but will also inherit $15 trillion. As boomers become increasingly social media-savvy, they’ll be able to put their money towards whatever’s trending. As a result, they may become the key to the success for many brands.

World boomer markets are emerging as well. Many countries, including Canada and most of Europe, are aging faster than the United States. For example, in 2030, more than one in three Americans will be over 50, as will half of the populations of Germany, Italy and Japan, and 40 percent of the people in China.

American companies are responding to these needs by overhauling product designs, changing sales strategies, and even redesigning store layouts.

For instance, Harley Davidson now offers the Tri Glide, a three-wheeled version of its motorcycle. This updated version accounts for the physical challenges older motorcycle buffs experience as they age, according to an article in U.S. News & World Report. Ford Motor Company has created a “third age suit” worn by younger test drivers. The suit effectively ages the tester 30 years to understand driving from the perspective of an older person by replicating the physical restrictions they commonly experience.

The Wall Street Journal reports that companies are making product labels larger, lowering store shelves to be more accessible, and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging—two colors that don’t appear as sharply distinct to older eyes. Scott West, a managing director of Invesco Van Kampen Consulting suggests financial advisers offer coffee cups with easy to hold handles instead of Styrofoam, use lamps instead of overhead lights to reduce glare, and turn off ambient sound when clients visit, as background noise hampers hearing.

Several additional examples demonstrate targeted design strategies. For instance, Diamond Foods re-engineered their Emerald snack nut line canisters to accommodate the declining agility of aging hands. Indented sides make the canisters more comfortable to hold and grooves make the lids easier to grip. Also, Arm & Hammer, noticing older shoppers struggling to read its cat-litter packaging, began sharpening the color contrast for the text and enlarging the words by 20%.

Similarly, Walgreens Co., has been gradually adapting its over 7,600 stores to be more age-friendly. They’ve positioned magnifying glasses in aisles that carry products like household cleaners, hair color and cold medicine, which typically use lots of fine print.

CVS Caremark Corp. has retrofitted its stores with carpeting to reduce slipping. Shelves were lowered to 60 inches from 72, and signs no longer plaster the windows to allow for more light. Wherever possible, curbs are eliminated from store entrances or painted yellow to heighten visibility.

Catering to the fact that this demographic does not want to be called old or senior, or any other descriptive that implies they are ancient history, euphemisms are flourishing. For example, ADT, owned by Tyco International Ltd., is marketing its medical-alert system to aging consumers as “Companion Services.”

How does your company jump on the huge longevity marketing opportunity of an aging population? Invent, produce, and distribute products and services that make aging easier. For instance, take into account the changing needs of older users, like decreased vision, strength, hearing and dexterity. Remember, this demographic believes that 70 is the new 50. Make sure your products and services support older adults’ desire to maintain their youthfulness and independence.

What is your organization doing to attract and retain this baby boomer market?

How can you adapt your goods or services to remain successful? What new products and services might transform your business to meet this changing demographic? The answers to these questions can help your business thrive now and into the future.

The New Retirement: A Paradigm Shift ( is a recurring column by Gloria Dunn-Violin (415-259-7090,, [email protected]). She is a professional speaker, seminar leader, and business consultant through her company, HAVING A LIFE After Making a Living. She has over 25 years experience in organizational behavior and development as a trainer, facilitator, consultant and coach. She also advises financial, insurance, and other businesses on how to provide their clients and employees with meaningful advice about aging and retirement.