Overlooked and underserved, over-50s – baby boomers (born 1946-64) and Gen Xers (born 1965-80) – often take a backseat to millennial and Gen Z consumers. Yet, this is a truly significant group holding strong financial and cultural clout.
If there’s any question about just how much influence this demographic has, brands and marketers simply need to look at the stats. In the US, boomers’ average net worth is currently 10 times that of millennials (The Federal Reserve, 2021).
Meanwhile, a group of 40 million American 50-plus women represent over $15tn in purchasing power, and are the healthiest, wealthiest, and most active generation in history (The Coca-Cola Company/Mass Mutual, 2018).
Over-50s are treating midlife as a time of liberation and purpose – pushing back against ageist stereotypes and challenging the way brands cater to and serve the needs of this life stage for generations to come.
Here are four ways in which these consumers are influencing future cross-industry landscapes:
1. The Next Gaming Generation
It’s time to retire the gamer stereotype. Globally, the number of 55- to 64-year-old gamers increased by 32% between 2018-21 (Global Web Index, 2021). They also make up a considerable section of the mobile gaming community, with over-50s spending a daily average of 21 minutes on phone apps – the highest of any age group (Statista, 2021).
So, what’s driving this uptick? A combination of things – from unprecedented retirement rates, to rising digital adoption during the pandemic, and an appetite for new social outlets and mental stimulation.
In the US, 67% of over-50s play games to stay mentally sharp, turning to mobile puzzles for cognitive agility (AARP, 2019). Relaxation is also a key driver, with cozy games like Nintendo’s Animal Crossing holding appeal due to their explicitly wholesome narratives, cutesy art styles, and minimal threat or combat.
Shaping the Future: With gaming now straddling all demographics, it’s important for brands to market to gamers as a diverse group with varied niche interests. Under this cohort’s influence, the industry will continue developing into a more inclusive and accessible space, with a greater variety of experiences on offer.
2. New Breadwinner Profiles
In the US, women over 50 are the largest demographic with an income over $100,000, controlling 95% of household buying decisions and 80% of luxury travel purchases (Consumer Expenditure Survey/Nielsen, 2018).
Dubbed ‘Queenagers’ – referring to their move into a new phase of life – this cohort holds significant financial power and undeniable influence. But this comes with its own set of pressures.
Outnumbered by millennials and boomers in the workforce, Gen X women are also the first generation to be caregivers for both their children and aging parents. And so, they require greater support when it comes to wellness and work-life balance. For employers, it’s important to be mindful of the risks of burnout for this put-upon cohort, as well as embrace flexible working policies and meaningful mental health support packages. For brands, it’s about serving up the right products and services to support hectic lifestyles.
Shaping the Future: As women over 50 continue to hold more influence across categories, brands will be forced to rethink how they cater and talk to this demographic if they want to win them over and play a meaningful part in their daily lives.
3. Evolving Family Travel
The demands of the over-50 traveler are vast. Many midlife consumers hold senior roles in the workforce, with travel built into their job expectations. But gone are the days of motel stopovers – business travelers need amenities to support their workdays.
When they do have vacations, it’s increasingly a familial affair: 71% of US Gen Xers say all their vacations are family-oriented, with 48% booking them for the sole purpose of seeing their loved ones (Skift, 2017). For brands, this creates an opportunity to market the cross-generational potential of packages and accommodation.
Sustainability is also a priority. This cohort wants to make sure their children have a future, and is pushing the travel industry to cater towards greener priorities – from eco-friendlier resorts to better waste management.
Shaping the Future: As the breadwinners and the center of many families, over-50s are calling on tourism companies to consider the needs of a range of demographics, shaping the future of family travel.
4. Reshaping Wellness Narratives
While health is sharply in focus across generations, women over 50 are leading the charge for more positive narratives and better support. According to Stylus’ content director Katie Baron, this cohort is “a pioneering generation whom adland almost entirely ignored beyond a cursory nod to the menopause”.
Frustrated by a lack of products that speak to and serve them, entrepreneurial Gen X and boomer women are taking matters into their own hands, creating effective and authentic midlife skincare products to meet their needs. See US-based Caire Beauty for a great example.
While 50% of American Gen Xers say their primary goal is to look more youthful (Facebook IQ, 2016), there’s also a push for brands to move away from negative anti-aging marketing, in favor of terminology like ‘pro-aging’, which is gathering pace.
Nutrition is also a priority, with this cohort opting for functional food and beverage products that can improve their wellbeing, energy and sleep. They also prioritize ingredients claiming to reduce the risk of cancer, such as those under the superfood umbrella.
Shaping the Future: Women aged 50 and over are speaking out against negative terminology and challenging ongoing taboos around menopause, pushing brands and marketers to rethink midlife wellness narratives and needs.
Tessa Mansfield is the Chief Creative Officer at Stylus, the expert source for trends and insights.