Pi Attitude Zone: Self-Fulfilment

Consumers Are As Young As They Feel

When the painter Francis Bacon died in 1992 he was well into his 80s. This is interesting in the context of what he once said about old age: “I will never be an old man.  To me, old age is always 15 years older than I am”.

He may have touched on a great truth about modern humanity.  The weird thing about getting older is that very few seniors now actually feel their age.  In a 2009 survey in America, over-50s claimed to feel at least ten years younger than the mathematical reality.  Those over 65 typically said they felt up to 20 years younger than their real age.

The late Doris Lessing, the Nobel-Prize-winning novelist who died in late 2013 aged 94, put the problem succinctly:  “Your body changes, but you don’t change at all”.  The dichotomy matters, since during the 20th century life expectancy in the developed world rose by thirty years.

This strange set of facts should give marketing people considerable pause.  Media and market surveys tend to corral older consumers into age-bands like “50+”.  Creative teams in ad agencies seem to assume that anyone who has been around for half a century is already succumbing to some kind of “retirement-mindedness”, in which the main choice is between a rocking chair and perpetual golf.  Yet many of the people they are dismissing this way feel inside as if they are still as vigorous, alert, ambitious and adventurous as they were when in their 40s or earlier.  These are “prime-of-lifers”, not shuffling oldies in dressing gowns and carpet slippers – at least in terms of their own self-image.

Older people are used to the condescending or dismissive attitudes of their juniors, but they are now emerging as the first “senior generation” that may have to endure younger generations’ outright hostility.  Through surviving in greater numbers for more years, the elderly are beginning to sense a new antipathy from society, which may see them as selfishly hogging resources like pension payments, housing and healthcare – resources which, but for them, might be more available or less costly to the young.  Living through your seventies these days is no picnic.  But then, neither is living through your twenties.

Pi says: attitudes of (and towards) older age groups are much more complex than they used to be.  This needs thinking about.  Careful study of the Pi-ChartsTM for different age-groups sheds considerable light on the problem.

Zone: Self-Fulfilment Country: Multiple Geographies Product –