This is part two of a series called US population trends affecting Business. These US trends are also very applicable to the Canadian population. Part one details the rapid growth of the Hispanic population in America and can be found on the ANTVibes blog. Today we examine the aging US population.

We know the US population, now about 315 million strong, is getting older. But how will your business be affected? Will your consumer base change? How will your workforce react?

Simple Figures

Let’s start with the facts. After the Second World War, millions of young men returned home to America and Canada and began starting their families. According to the US Census Bureau, this generation includes those born from 1945 to 1964, and are referred to as the baby boomers.

55 years ago, during the height of the baby boom, the US and Canada were averaging about 25 births for every 1000 people. Today, the rate is much lower, averaging about 15 births per 1000 people.

That being said, the baby boomers make up about 80 million people today in North America, with most of them above or near the age of 60.

Seniors today, those aged 65 and older, make up about one of every eight Americans. However, in another 15 years, it will be about one in every five. That’s close to 10,000 people turning 65 in the US each day for the next 20 years!

Businesses and marketers will need to take these statistics into consideration when creating plans and strategies in the future. In a recent survey of Canadian baby boomers, 80% of them considered themselves to have “big buying power”, yet 40% of them felt ignored by advertisers.

The Senior Population is Adopting Technology

Contrary to popular belief, seniors are not opposed to technological advances. Although it has taken some time to adopt new practices and tools, many seniors now shop, talk, and interact online.

Pew Research Center reports that over half of all seniors are now online. 

In addition, Pew Research reports that nearly 70% of seniors now own mobile phones, although less than 10% own smartphones. However, with the reach and speed of mobile and smartphone technology, it can be expected that the senior smartphone ownership rate will rise in the future. Perhaps soon we will also see more companies making mobile technology specifically geared for seniors, as many senior-focused apps already exist. Assistive technologies for the visually and hearing impaired will likely grow as well.

What may be even more surprising is that about 85% of online seniors use email for communications, over half purchase products online, and about 20% use social networking sites. Of the seniors that are online, about 70% of them make it a habit to use the internet on an everyday basis.

Dealing with an Aging Workforce

McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) reports that nearly 2/3 of baby boomer households aged 50-63 are not financially prepared for retirement. Although there will be many retiring, this also means that more older workers will remain in and even re-enter the workforce, with major implications for businesses. Multiple reports estimate that 70-85% of seniors intend to work past the traditional retirement age of 65.

Our aging workforce is already starting to create apprehension and conflict at work, and the trend is likely to continue. There is a large disparity between the way older workers prefer to work, and the way younger workers prefer to work.

Many older workers, staying in work or returning to work for financial reasons, will increasingly have to report to younger managers. As with any different demographic groups, there will be disparities between the way younger managers want things done and the way older employees accomplish tasks.

There will also be a good opportunity to listen and learn from our older workers who have generous amounts of experience. Creating diverse yet congruent work teams will be a challenge as always, but the capacity to create and innovate will increase with new generations mixing with older generations.

Businesses with High Growth Prospects

There are a few industries that are primed for high growth due to our aging population. In 2015, baby boomers are expected to account for about 40% of total spending in the United States.

Healthcare – This is an obvious choice. With age comes wear and tear on the body, and the healthcare industry is already budding. It’s no surprise that many sectors of healthcare are primed for long-term growth, such as pharmaceuticals, nursing homes, senior day care, and lab services.

From now until 2020, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the healthcare sector will outpace all other industries for job creation, with the highest estimated growth rate of 3% annually.

Fitness – The typical demographic of gym and health club users is changing. While the average age of gym-goers used to be concentrated in the 18-34 range, many new patrons aged 50 and over are attending. A large part of this is due to the obesity epidemic, and rising healthcare costs.

As the general public battles with health and fitness challenges, gyms, clubs, and fitness centers will continue to expand and open new locations. Along with these centers will come many a personal trainer and nutritionist.

Leisure and entertainment – We are primed to see increases in certain leisure and entertainment areas, such as golfing, cruises, and vacations. The baby boomer generation was the first to experience relatively high levels of income and prosperity, and as more folks retire and have more leisure time, these activities are sure to continue playing a big role in entertainment.

Will your business be able to take advantage of this demographic? What are you doing to reach out to the baby boomers? We’d love to hear your opinions. Please leave a reply here or contact us through social. @antvibes