The world’s senior population, generally defined as over 55 years old, has been rapidly growing in recent decades because of longer life expectancies, better access to healthcare and low fertility rates.

Globally, an estimated 12% of the world’s population in 2015 was over 60 years old, comprising 901 million people.  However, seniors are not equally spread out across every country, making up a larger share of the population in certain countries. For example, 39% of Japan’s population is over 55 years old, making it the oldest nation in Asia,  while Niger on the other hand has 49% of its total population under the age of 15, making it the youngest nation in the world. 

The ‘graying’ phenomenon has mostly affected developed Western nations because people are having fewer children until later in life. Therefore, brand marketing needs to focus more on older consumers because of their growing size and their relatively high prosperity, rather than on younger consumers that tend to have less disposable income, to grab senior’s attention.  

This is supported by GlobalData’s 2016 Q3 consumer survey, which revealed that 47% of global over 55s were more likely to purchase products designed specifically for their age group.  Reformulating products to the desires and needs of seniors will be essential for brands in the long term to capitalise on this large, and wealthy, cohort.

However, older consumers are not homogenous, meaning a traditional ‘one size fits all’ approach is unlikely to be very successful. Instead a more individualistic approach, which avoids potentially ageist undertones, that targets key trends relevant to seniors is essential.

For instance, 62% of global older consumers are often influenced by how food products impact their health and wellness when shopping. Simultaneously, 41% of over 55s don’t tend to pay attention to the healthiness of food when they want a genuine treat. The polarisation of seniors’ attitudes to products means that companies must be more aware about the nuances among older consumers to avoid alienating them with broad assumptions about their needs. 

Global brands seeking to maintain and grow their market share in the face of a ‘graying’ world can no longer overlook this consumer group. But companies must walk a fine line between meeting older consumer’s needs without stereotyping them in the process.