Positive ageing: The age of tomorrow

Posted: January 14, 2015

by Added Value France Director, Cécile Gorgeon Today, marketers and brand ambassadors are beginning to grasp the importance and urgency of responding to the huge and ever-expanding opportunity represented by seniors. Our once ‘age-phobic’ society is quickly transforming into a world where seniors are rehabilitated, where ageing is no longer something to be feared, and where science and technology are working hard to push the boundaries of longevity.

What if the next step is a society where ‘ageing’ is no longer reviled, but rather prized as the most beautiful part of life? What if Positive Ageing was not a smart trick invented for and by marketers, but a real social phenomenon that will shape future society? If this sounds crazy to you, here’s some food for thought.

  •  Age is beauty & style

Seniors are already becoming the new icons of the beauty and fashion worlds. MAC, American Apparel and Dove have already taken a stand, using seniors to embody aspirational beauty. At Lanvin, seniors have been taking centre stage as new style ambassadors, while senior models, such as Iris Apfel and Daphne Selfe, are increasingly in the spotlight.

  • Age is empowerment

It goes without saying that seniors are living the good life: they have wisdom and maturity on their side, and the financial, political and social clout to match! Some brands have been taking steps to understand how to best engage with them. Barclays invites its staff to wear clothes that imitate the physical sensations of aging to foster empathy with their senior clients. In its last campaign, DEPEND (a brand of underwear for seniors) focuses on power and success in order to overcome ageist stereotypes.

  • Age is freedom

Taking our cues from recent campaigns by Taco Bell, MasterCard and IRN BRU, we can think of ‘age’ in terms of emancipation and fun. Seniors are ‘Neo-teens’: once released from their familial and social responsibilities, seniors act like bold and brilliant free electrons, driven by their appetite for life. The new seniors break the rules, tell the truth, and have little time for political correctness.

  • Age doesn’t matter anymore

Scientists are breaking new ground in their quest for the fountain of youth: Harvard and Stanford universities have discovered a protein (GDF11) that rejuvenates brain and heart cells (New Scientist); according to Hugh Herr (professor at Media Lab), ‘soon, new electro-mechanical implants will be able to repair our bodies and organs and also to fight against age-related mental deficiencies such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’.

And how will this impact on the brands and products we consume?

  • Quantified ageing

Surveys indicate that 69% of adults track at least one health related measure, and this number increases with age. As consumer health tracking technology, such as Fitbit and Jawbone UP, becomes more mainstream, older generations will use them to take an active role in their ageing process. Some particularly savvy consumers have already used health tracking technology to change their lives in profound ways.

  • Staying sharp

As life expectancies increase, definitions of ‘old’ are changing. The years that are added to life are not necessarily added to the end, but put somewhere in the middle. Nowadays, life begins at 60, and with more years to spend, people are looking for ways to keep their minds active and sharp. Research has shown that ‘Brain Games’, special computer games or apps designed to test and increase your intelligence, can be used to ward off dementia. The Alzheimer’s Association of Australia has developed its own app, which came from research proving that mental activity can prevent the disease.

  • Continuing education

Longer life expectancies translate to more healthy and active years. After retirement, people are finding more and more ways to keep their lives interesting and fulfilling, not least continuing education. Especially in China, retirees are more educated than ever before, and enrolling in classes at record rates. And it is becoming more and more common for people over 50 to reeducate and switch to a new career.

  •  Travel

As Boomers age and retire, the travel industry will reshape to fit their aspirations. For this generation, the classic ‘resort’ vacation has begun to seem stale, and other types of vacations are being sought out. Research has revealed that more ‘purpose’-based travel, such as ecotourism, spiritual tourism, and adventure, is taking centre stage.

  • Assistive technology

According to a Harvard study, by 2025, 42% of all households will be headed by somebody 70 or older. As this number increases, different means of assistive living will emerge. ‘Smart objects’, or household objects that can connect to a network to provide monitoring and other services, are becoming more popular, and it is estimated that a modern home will contain several hundred by the year 2022. Japan has begun to commercialise assistive robots, and the US is not far behind. Carnegie Mellon University has recently developed a robot named HERB, or Home Exploring Robotic Butler, which can complete basic tasks for the elderly.


An aging population is more of a reality for marketers in developed countries than it is for those in emerging economies. The population pyramids on www.populationpyramid.net, show, for example, a very different picture for the spread by age of the population of South Africa versus the United Kingdom in 2020. However, by 2050, the pyramids are beginning to look more similar, as South Africa’s aging population increases.