Old is gold: But who is old?

Date of publication: June 15, 1989


The paper is divided in two parts. The first part discusses the demographic, economic and cultural aspects that stand behind the growing importance of elderly people as consumers of goods and services. Elderly people are not a homogeneous lot. The same reasons (demographic, economic and cultural) that explain their relevance in the market place, also account for their heterogeneity as consumers. The way people age is an even more fundamental factor which explains the variability of attitudes and behaviours. The second part of the article describes the research design and the results obtained from a study, mainly of a qualitative nature, carried out on the senior market in The Netherlands. After desk research on trends of the Dutch population, a lifestyle survey was conducted on two groups of citizens: one over 65 and the other between 25 and 40 years of age. The data, grouped under four headings: Activities, Happiness/Satisfaction, Social Skills, and Concern for Time, are presented in their similarities and differences. Special attention is devoted to the issue of Time Perception, assessed in both groups through a Semantic Differential exercise, in which the orientation towards the Past, the Present and the Future was tested. Composite Factor Scores, Distance from the Origin, Inter concept Distances, and Cultural Intensity were quantified, thus permitting an understanding of the subjects’ feelings towards each of the three temporal dimensions. The difference between the older and the younger group are not very great. Contrary to intuitive thinking, the elderly people are more future - oriented than the younger group. The marketing implications of this, and of the other findings of the research, are briefly discussed in the conclusion, at the end of the paper.

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