Dispelling Myths on Marketing to Older People

By Joanna Valente

In a world that is often youth-obsessed, and chasing younger generations' attention spans and interests, older people are overlooked. Even worse, they are cast off as unimportant. And yet, 35 percent of the U.S. population is 50 or older, according AARP, illustrating that much of the population is being left out of crucial moments in media, advertising, and product development.

This group, which is currently 117 million people, growing to 132 million by 2030, according to AARP, will include "the first millennials who will reach that milestone," as Michael Clinton wrote for ANA. Clinton went on to write that "U.S. Americans aged 50 and older spend $8.3 trillion a year, according to AARP... By 2030, that number is expected to grow to $13 trillion. In 2021, Americans 55 and older held 70 percent of the country's wealth, $92.3 trillion."

As Clinton poignantly pointed out, aging is a universal experience, so why not actually represent it more authentically? Clinton wrote, "What we know for sure is that aging is going to affect everyone, regardless of race, gender, sexual identity, political, and religious beliefs. It's a universal experience. Creating a more realistic approach to the new 50-plus consumer will not only serve brands well but allow them to find a new growth segment for their business."

Part of the irony when it comes to ageism in advertising? Older people are just people. And all people have needs, wants, and dynamic interests — as well as change, grow, and evolve. The notion that people don't change when they hit a certain age, or simply become stagnant does a disservice to how we view life. There's room for everyone at the table, so to speak, at every age group.

Below are key quotes on ageism in our current culture, and how we can, and should, change the status quo:

"Even though some people like to propose that the new frontier is the next app, the next new tech, the most extraordinary change taking place on planet earth right now is, in fact, the massive explosion in the number and power of older adults. Two-thirds of all people who have lived past 65 in the entire history of the world are alive today."
— Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D, founder of and CEO at Age Wave

"We're on the cusp of a change. You've got more and more people over the age of 60 who are overturning the stereotypes, so it's getting harder and harder to continue to abide by those stereotypes because we are being confronted with vivid, living counterpoints."
— Susan Gianinno, senior adviser at Publicis Groupe

"We have a real serious issue in this country of senior loneliness and depression. The pandemic really exacerbated that. Many seniors were forced to stay at home, and now they are thinking of entering the workforce again for social interactions."
— Andrew Meadows, SVP at Ubiquity Retirement and Savings

"People think you have to cast younger people, because older people want to be younger. But actually, I don't want to be younger. I'm happy to be how I am right now, and I'm really happy to be at this point in my life where I care less about what people think. I want to live my life more fully, and spread positivity — and be a role model for someone that maybe has something to share that's important but they are afraid to do it."
— Helen Polise, founder of Socialize

"[The 50-plus market] counters all the research about brand loyalty, as they switch brands in their 50s, 60s, and 70s. This is a whole new kind of consumer that most marketers have spent no time on in their marketing, research, and strategic planning."
— Michael Clinton, author of ROAR into the second half of your life and the founder of ROAR forward, a new platform for the 50-plus market

"There's an assumption that people are chasing their youth. This isn't true."
— Michael Clinton, author of ROAR into the second half of your life and the founder of ROAR forward, a new platform for the 50-plus market

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.