Random things I’ve learned from working with the 50+ demographic.

Although I can’t speak from the point of view of a 50 year old quite yet, I spent 12 years building up GrownUps to a place where we were really proud to call 145,000 people ‘members’ and to welcome up to 200,000 visitors a month.  The time in that business culminated in a few themes, myths, stats and general points of interest that I’d like to share.

Whether it was speaking one on one, observing GrownUps groups around the country or from the countless surveys and research conducted via the site, this has taught me that if you think anyone aged 50+ is old, past their use by date or is simply boring, consider that we take the view that 50 is only halfway and there is a heck of a lot of life left we hope. Just think about those that you know aged 50 and over or indeed yourself.  However sure, at the same time, we must recognise that not everyone is fortunate.

In general however, forget 70 being the new 50. 70 is whatever you want it to feel like when you’re 70!

If you own a brand or work with a brand, then although you may not want to admit that the 50+ market accounts for a large % of your business in case it somehow tarnishes your brand, then check out your sales data, look around the shop, check out the demographics visiting your site on Analytics, heck just look around the street when you’re walking. Is everyone aged 50+ sitting around reminiscing or are they busy living?

Please note that following stats are published GrownUps audience stats, unless otherwise noted.  Please also note that the views expressed are entirely my personal observations, so feedback to me if you have a different view or experience).

1) Not just one but four generations

It’s true, the 50+ demographic are not buying every single product or service available, but maybe, when we think more about it, they certainly play an important part in the purchasing funnel by influencing other generations both up and down their family tree.

Whether looking after themselves (buying everyday items, traveling, taking care of their health etc), their elderly parents (think a roof over their heads – retirement villages, downsizing, legals etc), increasingly assisting their children (first homes, cars, education) or helping kick-start their grandchildren’s lives (clothes, bank accounts, health insurance and again increasingly pay for their often private education), there is some genuine cross over.

2) Are generally extremely tech savvy

After all Steve Jobs designed the iPad with the more mature market in mind. 78% use Apps, 41% stream TV or movie content, 97% have the Internet at home. AARP (US) research shows that 70% of people 50+ use a smartphone.

3) Buy Online
Yes, there is a tendency to think that older people are very conservative with spending habits online and of course many are, particularly given the scammers that do exist out there who unfortunately tend to target older people. However, 75% do buy online. Specifically 54% buy gifts, 43% buy clothes/footwear, 31% buy health & wellness products, 26% purchase entertainment & 26% buy electronic goods online.

4) Are well-connected social media participants

Whilst it’s difficult to get a specific breakdown, around 18% of global Facebook traffic is from people aged 45+. Interestingly in NZ, the latest stats suggest 32% for the same age range. (Source: statista.com) 80% of GrownUps people use social media.

5) It’s not about age, but rather stage. Everyone is an individual.

It’s best not to group everyone in a bunch. Having said that, by using your data, much like any other age group, there will be trends and specific groups within. Therefore, it’s key to personalise your advertising wherever possible and don’t whatever you do, speak with the audience as if they are ‘old’. Be positive and tactful.

6) Are a key demographic running successful businesses of all sizes

These individuals often don’t only have cashflow, but also wish to reward themselves. Do not judge a book by its cover when a person walks in off the street or contacts you about your product and especially not if you are made aware of their age. You absolutely never can tell.  I highly suggest visiting a Motorhome expo near you and observing.

7) ‘Own’ the Travel market

A recent British stat from Saga.co.uk talks about a 9% increase in the overall percentage of travel expenditure by those aged 50+ in the last few years. The 50+ demographic now accounts for 58% of the overall travel market. For GrownUps, 93% take at least one holiday per year, with 65% taking 1-3 trips internationally each year.

8) ‘Own’ the Health products market

60% on GrownUps purchase health supplements.  According to the Natural Products NZ Survey 2014, the natural products market alone was worth $1.4b.  Wow!

9) Are for the most part fit and healthy

94% take part in some form of sport/exercise. Having witnessed local triathlon events, there are countless competitors into their 60’s who having looked at their split times are often quicker than those in their 40’s. If you witnessed the Masters’ Games in Auckland last year, one athlete was 101!

10) Own assets
Yes, it is very tricky and indeed scary to contemplate needing to survive on the pension alone, without other cashflow options or capital reserves. Despite this, 76% own their own home & 24% own investment properties.

11) Have a lot of disposable income

According to a NYTimes article by Braden Phillips ‘Marketers Take Second Look at Over-50 Consumers’, over the next 20 years, US Consumers will control 70% of all disposable income and inherit $15 Trillion.

12) Are not necessarily loyal (ie they like to try new things)
Don’t bank on the fact that if a person aged 50+ has spent with you before, they’ll do it again. The market is more than capable of finding the best deal, the best service and at the same time like anyone else, need to be wined and dined sometimes. Do not take them for granted. Know your customer!

I heard a story once, when some people in their 70s who had purchased from a luxury car brand several times over a decade or so, were invited to a new car launch which ended up being in an open air car park, on a cold winter’s night. There were mostly 20-somethings in attendance…surely they must have been friends with the marketing assistant as I don’t know too many 20-somethings who can afford a luxury car? These older attendees were largely ignored throughout and as a result, have never bought from that car brand again.

13) Don’t view themselves as old

So….don’t advertise to them or speak with them, using old looking people. In fact, speak with them not at them.

14) Like to dream and make the most of every day, just like everyone else!

So…offer the demographic a chance to dream! Your customer may not be able to buy today but they will work out a way and add it to their bucket list if nothing else. Whether taking up cycling, entertaining friends, planning their next overseas trip, meeting new people, wanting to learn new things (you can teach an old dog new tricks!) or whatever, we all have dreams and most of us are motivated to do more to achieve them.

15) Can’t stand the word Seniors or the old idea of Retirement

These are descriptions from 20 years ago. Please think of other terms when thinking about this. Retirement in the old definition, in all honesty meant that once you stopped work, you often stopped truly living. Now it’s a transition period that never really ends – it simply evolves into the next thing.

16) Are doing StartUps as well as continuing to grow amazing private businesses. (And are in fact more successful on average than younger entrepreneurs.)

Now I’m not suggesting for a second that anyone delay starting a business until you are 50, however it’s a fact that on average, older people have more success (per capita) at starting and maintaining a business. (To be fair, there are a lot more people under 50 starting businesses and giving it a go but the fact remains). Regardless of age, building businesses is extremely tough, takes plenty of hard work & unwavering persistence. However, when you think Colonel Sanders, Ray Croc, Ray Dalio, Sir Richard Branson, Warren Buffett etc, you get the picture. It’s never too late.

With around 1.65m New Zealanders alone aged 50 and over out of 4.5m of us, it’s a good percentage to be speaking with, who are getting busy living!


Ice Cube

Richard Poole – LinkedIn

Please check our GrownUps for more information on the 50+ demographic.  GrownUps is NZ’s largest online lifestyle magazine, social club & brain training hub, offering product & service offerings, specific to the 50+ lifestyle.

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