Our best agers: who dares to grow old?

Dirk Ziems

Best agers are generally considered to be high spending, keen to consume and conscious of quality. They are 50 and older, are established in working and private life, but are still curious and like to make enterprising use of their newly acquired freedom once house or flat has been paid off and the children have left home. At any rate, that’s how this target group is commonly described – but is this really true?

In many surveys concept m has taken a close look at the “best agers” from the baby boomer generation. The result: if we delve deeper and try to see behind this nice façade, at least the idealized image of the “best years” gets cracks: physical changes like grey hair, wrinkles and declining vision become more and more noticeable in everyday life and can no longer be ignored. This is joined by events which change the daily routine and shake accustomed structures, e.g. when the children leave home or care of the own parents has to be organized.

In reality, these changes are often not regarded as positive but cause uncertainty at first. If the best agers are really to be reached, this special stage of life must also be understood in the context of cultural psychology.

An ongoing generation study of concept m shows that the best agers do not necessarily regard this life-stage as the “best” even if the current situation would seem so from a purely material perspective.

This mainly has to do with the dominant “maximization cult” which has shaped the social ideal of the last decade: the widespread striving for “more” in the sense of “higher, faster, further, longer, lovelier” led to a sharp rise in life’s possibilities and freedoms.

The once rather linear courses of life have become zigzag biographies: if limits were encountered in one’s relationships, working worlds or living conditions, the partner, job or environment could simply be changed and a new start made.

The world seemed boundless and everything possible.

People set themselves up in a reality inherently promising to resemble the world of young people who have just left home. And they dressed accordingly and behaved as “youthfully” as people of this age. This “youth cult” holds to this day: someone with youthful performance, fitness and beauty has a high standing. The other side of reality involving natural limitations and transience is largely ignored in our society.

However, the baby boomers have now reached their “best age”: those born in 1964, the year with the highest birth rate, celebrated their 50th birthday in 2014. In Germany the proportion of people is growing who increasingly sense or have already come to realize that maybe everything isn’t possible after all or that you can’t stay young forever.

Many are starting to fight against this realization or phenomena confirming it with all means available to them – according to the motto: “It must surely be possible!” Industry offers products promising to retain performance and beauty primarily to this section of the target group.

But what about the growing section of “best agers” that faces reality and is looking for ways of coming to terms with the natural processes?

This explains the success of many products, especially in the cosmetics and food segments, which are committed to “naturalness”: they implicitly suggest “permission” to trust in and accept the natural “processes”. They thus address a great longing for relief from the prevailing demands on a person’s appearance and ability to perform.

Nevertheless, the counter-trend to the social ideal of “younger, more beautiful, fitter” is only just emerging. Particularly for the female target group an attractive example and role model for a worthy dealing with age (aging) is missing, which goes beyond the cliché of the “kind granny” and conveys more authenticity and confidence than the image of the “lifted movie star”.

First results of the generation study from concept m indicate that documenting positive acceptance of one’s own evolved and established identity holds very attractive potential for the female best agers. The focus on “individualized features” shows that the “aging process” can also be understood positively as a process of maturity.

At the same time the embodied attitude should also be a central source of orientation and assistance for young target groups like the digital natives who may be masters of transformation but are reluctant to commit themselves and so rotate in a constant search for identity.

For further information please contact Thomas Ebenfeld (thomas.ebenfeld@test.local).

Dirk Ziems
Dirk Ziems ist Experte für tiefenpsychologisches Marketing und berät auf Basis von Markt-, Medien- und Kulturforschung weltweit Unternehmen und Konzerne in zahlreichen Branchen und Ländern. Als Mitbegründer der Global Research Boutique Concept M und der Marketingberatung Flying Elephant begleitet er Themen wie die Adaption von Erfolgsprodukten in neuen kulturellen Kontexten, das tiefe Verständnis neuer Konsumgenerationen in China und USA, die Transformation der Werbekommunikation in der neuen digitalen Medienwelt oder die Neuorientierung der Brands in Post-Corona-Zeiten. Dirk Ziems ist auch als Gastdozent an verschiedenen Universitäten tätig.

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