Three pieces of news popped out a couple of weeks ago. Three bits of information from three different sources appeared on my screens within three days. A long time ago I was told that when that happens “you know there is a trend happening”. So is it time to stop my nagging and start celebrating that the time to recognize, analyze, and participate with New Life Builders is here?
1st Piece of News
The latest statistics from Japan say that over 30% of the population is NOW over 65. That is the first time in any country. It was to be expected in Japan, given for a long while it has been “ the aging champion” demographically. But it is big news.
A population where nearly a third of people are what was traditionally considered “old” has been reached now, not in 2050, 2100, or some other date “ in the future and for others to deal with.”
The WHO says in a recent report that by 2030 1 in 6 people will be over 60. Once again, as in nearly all things, Japan leads the trend. Various estimates tell us between 30 and 50 countries will hit that 30% over 65 figure in the next ten years. Many in Asia, a lot in Europe. And many more will soon follow. An aging world is not a distant issue, it is the reality and opportunity now.
2nd Piece of News
ESOMAR launched its best practice recommendations report offering best practice guidelines for measuring age. Important? You bet it is.
Because for the first time there is a guideline for market researchers that says that when you gather age data you split findings by ten-year groups throughout the population’s age.
Way too often researchers have offered population splits such as 15-14, 25-34, etc, and then for totally irrational reasons lumped everyone over 60 or 65 into the dreaded “65+” group. How ridiculous was that? Imagine saying a 19-year-old and their 41-year-old mother were in the same age group. You would laugh. But for some reason, a 65-year-old and his 85-year-old mother were in the same “65+” demographic. Oh, and his 106-year-old grandmother fell in the same group too. So this initiative is a long-awaited recognition that the industry has to really “get into the weeds” of the many nuances of having that 30% of the population over 65 and understanding the differences, hopes, desires, and reactions of 65, 75, 85, and 95-year-olds.
3rd Piece of News
A contact in Bangladesh tells me that they would like me to give a seminar to his company’s marketing team on what New Life Builders are and how they should focus on that audience. It is a telco company. In a country that is still “very young” in terms of demographic profile, this is news. But also, again, a sign that some smart marketers are finally getting it. Because in the giant “young” demography of Asia like Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, and Indonesia the truth is that “aging” is the fastest-growing segment. Take India. Recently it overtook China as the largest population, and yes most are under 40. However, nearly 10% are over 60, which means around 140 million people. And it is a segment that grows faster every year. Smart marketers are getting on board that the future will be older, that those aging populations will mean problems and change and also opportunity.
It is not About “Older” it is About Looking for the New in Life
OK so now you might be asking “what is a New Life Builder ?” Well, quite simply over 25 years of studying people in the 55-75 age groups across the Asia Pacific region, one thing has been clear. The image society and business have had of people 65+ has for a century been one of winding down. Back in the 90s, I found articles referring to retirement as “waiting for death”. But it just is not true. Loads of studies have highlighted that those years are really about thinking about “what to do next”.
Sure there are a lot of issues to consider about aging populations. It is reported in some studies that the typical Japanese 65-year-old has the body of someone a decade younger. Again Japan leads the way. The reality is that aging populations will mean having to deal with greater needs for careers and caring industries. But it also means a greater call for “exploration” industries. Because people from 60 to 90 want to keep exploring life. For some that may mean the re-booming of the post covid cruise market, the continued boom in the re-education market, or simply taking in a new café or learning to dance again in the park. Something we have and continue to see every morning in parks across Asia.
The New Life Builder is not so much a demographic segment as a general mindset. One that marketers have found hard to come to grips with. The idea that “old people want to try new things” has been hard to understand. And even harder to activate because it does not fit the common and mistaken mantra.
Overcoming Myths is the Secret to MR’s Role
The market research industry has been equally reluctant. Just in the last couple of years, I have heard some typical responses to my asking how MR is dealing with the aging population:
“Well, our clients are not asking us to look at them” … usually because MR companies are not telling clients why they should. Why can’t you be a responsible partner and explain to clients reality rather reinforcing their limited knowledge?
“Well older people don’t really buy, try, swap” … this is from big MR agencies who have often been tracking today’s 60-70 year old throughout their lives as they bought, tried, and swapped products and brands. We see data all the time that says that people from 60 to 90 are constantly tweaking their lives, buying new things, and looking for things to experience so why not focus on those growth areas?
“Well older people find technology hard to use” … this is from MR practitioners whose job is to help clients understand what matters to people and the opportunities to influence them. In reality, it is not about the New Life Builder not being able to use any specific tech, it’s about adapting to what they want to use. Go check the Saregama Carvaan case from India as an example of adapting new tech to an audience.
The good news as I said is that things are moving. The 60+ population is starting to be recognized more. The MR world is starting to catch up. Slowly. It is where growth will come for your clients. So maybe, finally, that 30% is the place to focus.
*Want to know a little more? Have a listen to the recent GreenBook Podcast.