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Things Boomers Over 50 Want Out of Life

According to the Boomer Project, marketing researchers who specialize in Boomer needs and solutions, Boomers over the age of 50 have special approaches and needs in life.
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Boomers were the first raised in front of a television set, during the Cold War. Famous people died before their eyes and these memories are hard to shake!  JFK. RFK, MLK.  These celebrities are so much a part of their culture that they are known by acronyms!

78 million Boomers have been the driving engine of the American consumer economy since coming of age in the 1970s.  That means that ONE out of THREE adults over 21 in the US is a Baby Boomer.

  • 70% of the nation's net worth is in Boomer hands.
  • They control half of all the household discretionary income.
  • They spend $2 trillion annually on consumer goods and services.

By 2010, the Boomer Project predicts that adults 45 and older will outspend younger adults by $1 trillion.

The age segment of 50-65 will grow in size by 70% over the next 15 years. No other age segment will grow more than 10% over that same period.

What do Boomers Want?

Boomers reject any and all age related labels to describe themselves.  No seniors.  No "mature".   They still believe in a generation gap -- and want nothing to do with their parents or previous generation of seniors.  50-year-olds are a separate group.

Boomers at 50 see themselves some 12 years younger than they are!  They don't associate themselves with any imagery connected with being "old."  They do acknowledge "middle age".  And Boomers at 50 expect to live 35 more years -- they keep moving the "hill".  They are active, vibrant and full of life.  Treat them otherwise and you'll lose them!

They still try new things, new brands, new experiences.  They aren't set in their ways. They also may not respond to messages wrapped n a nostalgic theme...their hill has yet to be climbed!

Boomers are transforming what it means to look your age. They don't mind looking "about 40", but they are going to grow older slowly, on their terms. 

Boomers' demographics are different, too.  88% have been married, 41% of those have been divorced. 12% never married...and that's about double the prior generation's rate.  So toss aside the "traditional family" concept for the new rules of single, single parent, step parent, divorced -- anything but traditional.

83% have had children but 34% are now empty nesters.  And empty nesters want to shop, travel, dine and be entertained where there aren't many kids. They redecorate their homes and take more vacations. They spend more on products for themselves and less on family items.  37% of Boomer parents are grandparents.  They spend more annually on gifts for their grandkids than their predecessors. They're passionate about their grandchildren!

The urgency to get the most out of life while they're still healthy and wealthy will drive more and more decisions after the age of 50, especially decisions about travel and vacations.

Boomers change their diet due to a medical condition.  30% have survived a major illness and they adjust. At first they will appreciate it when their needs are accommodated. They they'll expect it. They want services that are not age-based.

Marketers have dropped "senior" terminology for a long list of euphemisms:  mature adults, active adults, golden years, third agers, etc.  But Boomers themselves want NO SUCH TERMS.  Including the term "Boomers" itself.

The challenge is to create new terms and words to describe this new version of the Boomer generation. Terms shouldn't have anything to do with age or growing old. Terms need to address continuing development and be forward lookng. Boomers are still climbing life's adventures!

Some terms that have been seen (but are not fully accepted anywhere) include:  The Bridge Years, The Giving Years, Free-tirement, Second 50 Years, Re-stage, and Shifting Gears.

Decisions probably won't come until about 2011, when the first Boomers reach 65.  Don't be surprised if "senior" comes back into fashion by then.

What do Boomers Really Want?

They want more time.  Time to accomplish something.  So they want servics to replace more physical requirements such as home maintenance, cleaning, lawn care, packing and moving services, etc.

Boomers want the "Fountain of Health" more than the "Fountain of Youth".  They want to FEEL younger and healthier.  Health clubs and spas can offer vibrant, healthy and vital.

With 20-30 years of "leisure time" to fill, Boomers look for new experiences and things to do -- dining, travel, at-home entertainment, sports and all things enjoyable.

Boomers are more about "experiences" than "things".  Mini-storage will stop being a growth industry as Boomers pare down on physical belongings and accumulate life experiences. Classes will go over better than the "stuff" involved in hobbies.

Life is cyclical -- they are returning to school, relocating, have new kids, downsize, new careers and so on.  Traditional trajectories don't fit. You can't judge where a Boomer is in their life style.  They could be starting over again!

Boomers don't plan to retire.  87% either will keep working or aren't sure yet if they'll keep working.  And with the economic downturn, that probably means more will keep working.  Or even being entrepreneurs.  That means they will spend money o work cloths, they look for jobs, and training.  And they value being active.

Boomers want special treatment because they think they deserve it, or have earned it.  Not because they're now old. 

The "Me Generation" follows their inner motivations more than the crowd.  They don't care about keeping up with the Joneses...hardly. They worry about what they're getting out of life and what they should be giving back.  Their inner drive leads them to appropriateness and relevance for them rather than popularity.  They don't want what's "for everyone", they want what's "for you".

Boomers are past "becoming someone" and are more about "being someone."  Motivations are more self-directed and self-driven.  Now they do what they want to do, they're more tolerant of different lifestyles and choices.  Including sex.  Boomer sexual identities continue to drive behavior for the children of the sixties. Sexual innuendos that are a wink and a nod with an honest acknowledgment that Boomers don't have perfect bodies makes sense to them.

Boomers want lifelong learning.  Their quest is to keep learning about themselves and their world.  Classes at community colleges, edutainment vacations, and the business of learning will be huge over the next two decades.

Boomers don't want to look back, they want to still find something with meaning to do -- learning, working and volunteering.  They are still on a mission. They change their focus to broader circles of engagement -- positive social purposes, creativity, building a legacy -- all as part of the process of "being someone."   They will support civic or humanitarian efforts to make the world a better place.  They'll do it.

This attitude of looking forward makes Boomers more like younger adults than seniors.  Boomers worry about finances and work/career to the same degree as younger adults. But they aren't worried about their health or age (yet) like seniors.  They also say they still have much to accomplish in their lives -- 89% can identify major ambitions or dreams!

Boomers are looking for ways to get involved and make a difference.

Many Boomers are sandwiched between caring for their aging parents (the "real" seniors) and their kids.   Half of Boomers over 45 have kids under 18 living at home.  34% care for a parent.   TIME becomes their most precious commodity.

Boomer men are getting in touch with their feminine side...and Boomer women are becoming more masculine.  It's normal.  Society is becoming more androgynous and sex identity less important. Even Carl Jung observed this trend over age.  Gender cues are less important for Boomers.

Boomers value their local community -- and don't want to move to Florida or Arizona.  Home improvement, home repair, home maintenance services, home decor, home renovations, and all things to re-feather the nest will be big business over the next ten years.

Boomers don't want "assisted living" facilities they saw their aging parents in.  They will spend on longterm care insurance, home care options, live-in nursing -- anything that helps them age in their homes.

Find more information and consulting for the business side of the Boomer tide at the Boomer Project.

Editor, Carolyn Allen


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Publication Date: 6/15/2009
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