Time for part two of the addition to this post. In the meantime, Joke has already talked about the economic impact of technology on the elderly, from their point of view. In this post, I’ll represent the producer and how they experience the senior citizens as a marketplace segment. This post will be loosely based upon a study performed by James R. Lumpkin (1), with some of my own assumptions added to the mix.
Producers are still struggling to economically segment the elderly population in a suitable way. There are multiple types of personalities (the early adapter, the cautious consumer, …), yet most of the senior citizens differ from their younger counterparts. I’ll focus on these general differences rather then lose myself in an avalanche of terms and semantics, but be aware that people of a respectable age aren’t as easy to group together as it appears.
In general, Lumpkin concludes that there’s one big macro-economic divide between elderly and youth. Most products are developed and marketed to satisfy a need that wasn’t there before the product appeared. The easiest example of this is electricity. Before it was commercialized, people got around just fine. Nowadays, if you live without it, you’re considered to be below the minimal economic limit (as in: poverty). The elderly however don’t respond very well to this type of economic thinking. In other words, they (mostly) respond to a need they already had beforehand. This rigidity has a few possible causes, which I’ll discuss below.
A) Senior citizens are proud of their independence. They survived just fine before, they don’t need new technology now.
B) They’re insecure and posses a natural fear of change. This is most prevalent in concurrent products, where marketing studies observe a remarkable brand-loyalty in older citizens.
C) They just don’t know about the product as they’re not as acute to news and commercials as they used to be.
D) Elderly don’t recognize the ‘value’ of new products and thus ignore them.
The loyal reader of this blog will recognize a lot of themes that have been discussed before. It’s hard to encourage people of a respectable age to try out new things. Insecurity and fear are often the demotivators, however sometimes the elderly just have a strong sense of independence (and the fear of losing it). These emotions cause a social and economic divide between age categories, as well as impact other regions of society. For instance, older employees are often more rigid and less prone to change.
This cautiousness is however not necessarily a bad thing. When you think about it, who’s the irrational person? The one who refuses to buy a new product or the one that believes this new development is something he/she has been sorely lacking (even though it often isn’t the case)?
(1) J. R. Lumpkin, Shopping orientation segmentation of the elderly consumer , Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, Volume 13, Numbers 1-2, p. 271-289