Harrison Fraser

Creating brands,
creating places


The Silver Economy: How the Over 65s Are Rejuvenating the Grey Market (Part 2)

  • Strategy
  • Trend Forecasting
For Part 1, click here.

From keeping up with the speed of digital advancement to adopting a more sustainable lifestyle, Baby Boomers have proven to be an adaptable generation. They have also shown that the sense of adventure does not go away with age.

Adventure seekers

Arguably, the most efficient means of memory-making is to escape abroad – and the older generations enacted this more readily than any other during and in the aftermath of COVID. National Express Holidays reported a 185% increase in Spring and Summer holiday bookings year-on-year at the start of 2021. Almost all its customer base (98%) is aged 65 and over.

Often seeking active relaxation, the over-65s spend more, go away for longer and lodge in more expensive accommodation. In fact, so long as comfort is guaranteed, they are happy to spend more than double on accommodation than millennials, recognising that sometimes it’s just not worth finding an uninvited cigarette butt floating in the loo. While it’s equally true that Boomers like to hunt for offers, it’s less about budgetary reasons so much as the satisfaction of cracking a local experience or customised tour. ‘Silversurfers’ is a lifestyle website that caters for this crowd, offering adventure and sports holidays exclusively for those aged 50 and above, from cycling holidays in Tuscany to dodging icebergs in Alaska.

Reconceiving retirement

All of this is having a transformative effect on our intellectually sedentary and increasingly myopic conceptions of ‘retirement’. Boomers’ means and attitudes have recalibrated what it means to ‘retire’ – and traditional models of retirement must evolve commensurately. ‘Care-homes’ – already much-maligned before the pandemic as being synonymous with intellectual and aspirational death – are being reconstituted as high-end residential complexes replete with higher specification services; or, in the words of Anthony Oldfield of JLL UK, “amenities with the back-up of care services, as and when they need it.” We are now also seeing retirement homes being tailored to specific demographics. For example, Auriens Chelsea offers a luxury later living residence in London, while Tonic Housing, which opened late last year in Vauxhall, is the UK’s first retirement community specifically for the LGBT+ community.

Sex, drugs, and gaming

Ultimately, seniors want to feel as rejuvenated as possible with the means they have available to them – and savvy entrepreneurs are already capturing this market. In the US, ‘incredibles’, the edible brand, has made THC gummies that are easy on the teeth, adopting the treats of youth and lulling one into a soft sleep. ‘Dad Grass’ offers a mature alternative; cigar-like in appearance, these low-THC cannabis products intend to be reminiscent of marijuana as it was decades ago.

Pushing the boat out further, relationship charity Relate has released a brand of ‘Hornicultural Society’ vegetable-themed condoms aimed at the over 65s to tackle the taboo of later-life sex alongside the high prevalence of STIs within that age group. Meanwhile, Senior Dating Agency Ltd has launched two new dating sites that cater to the over 50s.

Gaming, too, is making the jump to seniors. Astonishingly, the fastest-growing demographic among adult gamers is those in the 55- to 64-year-old category – a group that has risen by almost a third since 2018. Services like ‘Arkadium Advantage’ have launched a new elderly-friendly gaming subscription service that provides easy opportunities for elders to enjoy casual gaming and deliberately absconds any complicated setup process. Xbox, which recently worked alongside McCann London to create the ‘Beyond Generations’ campaign, has established a ‘ReBoxing’ campaign whereby younger generations gift their old consoles to the elderly when they upgrade. Companies like SilVR Adventures are also offering VR experiences to the elderly – from a tour of the Sistine Chapel to a classic concert to revisiting a sanctum from childhood.

A vast new economy

There has long been an unsavoury inclination to infantilise seniors; to talk down to them as though they were toddlers. But as global average life expectancy continues to increase and the grey market swells ever larger, this will not only unlock a vast new economy but may also revolutionise our comprehension of what it means to get older.

What is now a homogenous ‘grey market’ will begin to sub-divide into smaller, more considered brackets, such as the wellness-obsessed and the tech-savvy, as the weight of opportunity grows. And once older generations are as market-saturated as the rest of us, then perhaps we will finally take them seriously – less a patronising infantilisation and more a reincarnation. Any brand worth its salt must recognise this, and double down on it.