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The world is in the throes of a demographic revolution, called global ageing.  The numbers tell the story!  For the first time in human history, the number of seniors amount to 15% (never before having amounted to more than 2 or 3 % of the population).  It is projected that by the year 2030, the total worldwide senior population will number 974 million.

Let’s look at the numbers in South Africa.  There are over 3.5 million South Africans over the age of 60.  This is the fastest growing age demographic and represents a sizable portion of the consuming public.  Seniors are starting to  outnumber the young and this should bring about a profound change to our lifestyles, our workplaces, our health systems etc.

In 2008 a study called Prime Time was conducted by the UCT Unilever Institute.  The study found, at that time, that 1,98 million Baby Boomers in the LSM 7-10 market owned 30 % of the cars on the road, had 30% of the university degrees and were worth over 300 billion.  This group was 26 % black, 45 % white, 10% Indian and 19% coloured.  They made up 6% of the population but had 20% of the spend  – and 50% were debt-free.  According to this report, this ‘golden seam’ of South Africa’s biggest spenders, was a lucrative market, and was and often still is ignored by marketers.

So why are marketers not going all-out to attract the Baby Boomer and senior crowd?   Seniors often feel marginalised and ignored by the retail, corporate and media worlds.   Campaigns are planned to younger audiences, some corporates feel that there is no viable option to provide a reduced rate to seniors, many agencies don’t plan a specific focus on pensioners and if there is a senior programme, it is often only promoted in-house.

One could argue that according to the latest Sanlam Benchmark Retirement Survey,  60% of SA pensioners do not have enough to live on and the trend is getting worse.  So why allocate spend on this sector?

  • Research done by Corlett and Kesner in the late nineties suggests that discounts and award programmes as well as special personal services, relationship marketing and customer education that are offered to senior citizens by businesses/retailers, are good strategies for building retail loyalty, and increase purchase frequency.
  • And, don’t underestimate boomers, seniors and retirees.  When their backs are up against the wall, they are inventive.  They will find a way to manage.  Whether they change careers at the age of 60, start a business or a franchise, look for part-time or consultancy work, they will find a way to make a living, thus always having something to spend.

One misconception about marketing and advertising to this age group via social media and online marketing is that it is not viable.  According to The South African Social Media Landscape 2012, produced by technology market researchers and information analysts, the fastest growing age group among Facebook users in South Africa is the over-60s, with the number of over-60s on Facebook having grown by 44% from August 2011 to August 2012. The reality of seniors’ relationship with technology and the digital world is very different to common belief.   Mature web users may not be quite as digitally aligned as the younger generation, but they are catching up rapidly.   Silver surfers are browsing on Facebook, searching on Google, skyping family abroad, are proficient with email and watching videos on YouTube.    Despite seniors becoming increasingly savvy online, they are overlooked by social media marketers.  It’s hard to understand why more marketers are not leveraging these connections.

This is a powerful, but overlooked sector.  They may be ageing, but they are full of life.   They like to maintain  independent and youthful lifestyles.  They easily change  careers at 50 or 60.  They are enjoying their freedom from the shackles of family responsibility.   If you choose to ignore the over-60 opportunity, you are ignoring a global redefinition of age.  We recommend that you consider setting your sights on maturing consumers!  They are set to revolutionise the whole meaning of retirement.

As 65-year old John said – Boomers can be misunderstood.  We are actually physically, emotionally and mentally different from our parents’ generation – The Silent Generation.  We are a product of the sixties.  Retailers need to understand that we are not “old”, and we certainly will not be “put out to pasture”.  We invented “rock and roll” and we invented “cool” .  We will always have rock and roll and we will always be “cool” And, we are internet-savvy!

Author:  Marilyn Hallett,  Founder and MD:  You’ve Earned It (YEI) –

One Comment

  • Richard Stephens says:

    Dear Sir / Madam
    In regard to the above article it would help the over “60’s” if the bigger companies out sourced some of their data and word processing work etc. to us retired persons.
    No doubt a lot of us have a tremendous amount of experience and to out source to us at a reasonable hourly rate would cost them far less as the wouldn’t be paying PAYE, UIF. Medical Aid and Pensions.
    Please give this matter so thought for the sake of those who are battling to survive on meagre pensions.
    Many thanks and kind regards – Richard Stephens

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