Home Articles Myths and misconceptions about marketing to the ‘oldies’.

Myths and misconceptions about marketing to the ‘oldies’.


Today’s baby boomers are redefining the concept of retirement, knocking down the barriers previous generations erected around ageing.

With 200,000 baby boomers turning 65-years-young (aka retirement age) this year, and another 5.4 million to follow, the senior demographic is swelling to unprecedented dimensions. For businesses, this translates to a range of new marketing prospects.

We’re all living longer these days thanks to better medical care and healthier living. German-based demographer, James Vaupel, estimates that the average baby girl born in Western societies today will live to 100 years old. Meanwhile, the Australian Bureau of Statistics forecasts a baby boy’s life expectancy is 79 and a baby girl’s life expectancy is 83.

Whichever number you believe, compared to 100 years ago we’re getting older.

Rather than conforming to the stereotypes of older people, these current retirees are throwing out the rule book. They’re going back to school to obtain professional degrees, travelling the world with their friends, building their own sailboats and daring themselves to take risks and learn to play again.

Older Australian are no longer brand loyal

The important thing to remember before you even think about targeting boomers is that they’re not brand loyal. Incentives to keep them coming back are essential. Research has shown that products or services need to demonstrate value-for-money.

Providing an incentive that relates to at least one of the following eight categories will also help:

  • Health
  • Travel
  • Passion and play
  • Sexuality and romance
  • Fashion and beauty
  • Housing
  • Family
  • Aged care

Older people love technology

It’s often assumed that older people don’t use the internet or social networking sites. Fact is, they do.

One-quarter of the Australian population over the age of 65 are visiting social network sites, while social media usage by those over the age of 50 has increased by 42%. Forty-seven percent of 50-64 year olds and 26% of over 65 year olds visit social networking sites regularly.

Facebook has the potential to improve the lives of older Australians by keeping them connected and maintaining relationships through online groups and fan pages. Boomers and older people are creating Facebook groups fueled by their passion about a particular product or service and companies have the opportunity to target these online groups as part of their social media strategy.

Websites and email campaigns are a great place to interact with older people while also providing statistics of users, most clicked links and most visited pages amongst others.

Older people are getting active

When it comes to health, longevity is the goal and fitness is the key for baby boomers. Most feel that having a healthy lifestyle is important, but they find it difficult to establish that lifestyle.

Combining motivation and aspiration with a socialising and fun approach is the way to go. Exhibit A: Melbourne’s popular Around the Bay in a Day. The majority of participants were aged between 41 and 50 years old (around 4,500) and about 3,000 of the participants were aged 51-60 years old.

So why are so many older people choosing cycling? It improves cardiovascular fitness while having low impact on the hips, knees and other joints, it’s easily incorporated into every day activities, and it’s socially interactive and enjoyable!

Older people want privacy, with community

Longer life expectancy means older people are entering retirement living at a later age than previous years and are staying in residential care for shorter periods. They are also increasingly demanding assistance with their care needs and crave more privacy, living space and a greater range of services and social activities.

However, the Grant Thornton report on Retirement Living found that there’s a low level of understanding of the advantages of retirement living among baby boomers. With reputation and affordability remaining the two highest ranking resident priorities, sophisticated marketing of aged care facilities is even more important than ever before.

Boomers want housing that offers a sense of community, involvement and connection. They want homes that aren’t too big, and are clutter-free with open-plan living areas. Women want ‘spa’ themed bathrooms which add a bit of luxury whereas men want the latest technology.

Not only do women have a longer life-expectancy than men but older women today are also better educated, more financially savvy and make more money that their predecessors. It comes as no surprise then, that women are the fastest growing segment of home buyers.

So, if you want to market to older Australians, forget the stereotypes. It’s time to learn some new tricks.

Rhod Ellis-Jones is the Principal of Ellis Jones consultancy. Ellis Jones specialises in health and aged care marketing, working with leading aged care providers as well as state, federal and capital city government to deliver integrated communications programs, tying together branding, advertising, employee communication and facility marketing.