Smiling people over the age of 55, sometimes with friends or family, often outdoors. They’re physically active, hanging with family or tackling that bucket list—and having a damn good time doing it. Why do images like this appeal so broadly? They’ve got the money, honey. In North America, thanks to aging baby boomers—the biggest generation the world has ever seen—we’re in a “senior boom”. (Not that you should call them seniors, old or elderly. They don’t like it.)
By 2030, once the last boomer has hit retirement age, 20% of Americans will be 65 and older. This is good news for brands. First of all, that sense of entitlement everyone attributes to millennials? Boomers have it bad. They believe their golden years should be comfortable and easy and are not afraid to spend money to get what they want. Unlike previous generations, boomers aren’t particularly worried about leaving it all to their kids—and they’re rolling in it. According to Nielsen, they enjoy up to 70% of the disposable income in the US and generate more than $200 billion in sales of consumer goods every year. What’s more, boomers in America stand to inherit a staggering $13 trillion by 2025.
Many boomers have big plans for all that money. With dreams of continuing their active lifestyles surrounded by luxury and convenience, boomers who own homes will either upgrade—with contractors (not DIY)—or move to a brand new condo, sometimes in an tropical locale. Elaborate vacations are also on the horizon for this generation.
Why leisure activities? It’s simple: retirement. The oldest boomers will turn 71 this year. While they won’t be pushed out of their jobs, if they’ve found the financial freedom to do so, they’re retiring in record numbers—as high as 10,000 a day in the US. Still healthy, they now have time to enjoy their families as well as the travel and hobbies they passed up while working. In their minds, they’ve earned this. While they’d never say they’re looking for a “traditional retirement”, boomers are likely the last generation to be able to do so. But they’ll do it their way.
Target this demographic with extreme images: extremely aspirational that is. Even if they’re not mobile enough to *be* those people, exposure to people their age in advertising may urge boomers to invest in lifestyle changes: get a bicycle, join a gym, take a cruise or plan an epic holiday. Imagery can be informative too, driving boomers to realize their need to hire an attorney, see their doctor, make a will or have discussions with family about end of life decisions.
It’s true that boomers and seniors don’t like being reminded of their age. But they do like the opportunities in their remaining years. They’re carving their own picture of retirement. Some boomers plan to keep working, either for financial reasons or because they want to continue to contribute. It’s the freedom of choice, which boomers have always had and will demand as they grow older.
Advertisers and brands are starting to switch their focus to millennials (the echo boom), but it’s important to remember that boomers aren’t done yet. As a generation, they’ve always been a force of nature, both culturally and financially - and they’re determined to stay that way.