Social media and technology are helping to shine a brighter light on some of the covert prejudices associated with race, gender and sexual orientation, leading some people to feel more empowered to work towards dismantling discriminatory systems. Yet, ageism is alive and well and there doesn’t seem to be any moral outrage against it. Our cultural and structural disregard for older populations “is almost the last prejudice that we are allowed to have,” says Kathryn Lawler, the director of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Area Agency on Aging. This is ironic considering that aging is a universal human experience for those lucky enough to have the opportunity to grow older.
And whether we acknowledge it or not, our population is aging and we are going to have to come to terms with the associated bias that persists. By 2050, the global population of people aged 60 and older will rise to 2 billion, up from 900 million in 2015. Every day in the United States, 10,000 people turn 65. Lawler says, “We have to begin to talk about aging being a part of the diversity matrix.” Okay, ageism is not right, but why should marketers care?
Marketing and Advertising Bias
Seniors have a tremendous amount of clout and they could very well start using it. Many older people have accumulated more wealth than their younger counterparts and have tremendous buying power as a result. Yet many companies are ignoring this attractive market. Maybe that is because many marketers are under the age of 40. According to economic trends, today’s older consumers command much greater buying power compared to current and previous generations. “Boomers” alone represent 70% of the total net worth in America and account for 40% of total consumer demand.
As reported by Eillie Anzilotti, an assistant editor for Fast Company's Ideas section, an Oxford Economics report found that the “longevity economy” is one of the most vital in the U.S., with 106 million people over the age of 50 collectively responsible for $7.6 trillion in annual economic activity, spending $4.6 trillion on consumer goods and services. Seniors may start using that buying power more effectively by voicing their concern when they are being dismissed, patronized or ignored by companies. As we have all seen recently with the #metoo movement, there is power in numbers.
So while aging is a universal human condition, discrimination towards aging doesn’t have to be. Baby boomers have the opportunity to start fighting back and advocating through large groups such as AARP. They also can use their buying power to put companies on alert that are ignoring them through their advertising. Millennials have been very effective at using social media to make their voices heard when individuals, companies, and or government practices have been discriminatory and baby boomers could very well take a page from that playbook as well.
For more information on marketing and advertising to seniors, email email@example.com.