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How the silver generation are providing a golden opportunity for marketers

How the silver generation are providing a golden opportunity for marketers

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While marketers get excited with millennials, gen Zers and gen alphas, there is a quiet revolution taking place across Asia. The population is getting older, birth rates are falling, and life expectancy is increasing. By 2050, one in four people in the region will be over 60 years old, reaching close to 1.3 billion.

This shake-up in demographics should force a rethink at the other end of the spectrum to say hello to the baby boomers, gen X, or, simply, ‘The silver generation’.

During the 1970s, Japan introduced the concept of a ‘silver economy’. These include economic activities, products, and services that meet the needs of people over 50. The Asian silver economy is lined with gold, projected to be US$4.56 trillion by 2025, representing a lucrative and untapped opportunity for marketers.

Asia may be a ‘super-aged’ society, but don’t take out the wheelchairs and adult diapers yet. The silver generation are twerking online, running marathons, becoming seniorpreneurs, and re-living their life to the fullest, instead of lingering in neighbourhood coffee shops playing mahjong ('Chinese tile-based game').

Show me the money

The silver generation is expected to drive one-third of growth in Asia. Around 70 million silver generation display high incomes and will drive categories such as health, housing and leisure.

Spending on healthcare is expected to grow by US$250 billion by 2030, and an increasing share will be consumed digitally, giving rise to myriad opportunities for health products harnessing the power of technology.

Taobao in China launched a specialised 'Elder Mode' on their shopping app. With larger fonts and features involving search by simply taking pictures of medicine bottles, customers were able to control their online shopping. What’s next? Imagine AI-driven home care kits delivered by smartphone. 

This is the generation whose children have stepped out of homes for work or study, creating empty nesters with different needs that real estate companies have capitalised on. Retirement community Antara Senior Living in India provides end-to-end holistic wellness services such as medical care, kitchen and house-keeping facilities for their residents.

Leisure businesses should also think of how they can better cater to the silver segment – from space design to consumption preferences to relevant experiences. Seniors meet seniors (SMS) knowledge café in Singapore for instance is not just your run-of-the-mill café, it is also a place where seniors have peer-led discussions to learn from each other in a fun way and make better sense of living in an urban community.

Never too old for technology

The silver generation is comfortable consuming technology. In South Korea, more than 90% of seniors are expected to be online by 2030, while the proportion in China is expected to exceed two-thirds. In Japan, 37.2% of the total LINE user base are aged 50 or above. Singaporean seniors are more likely to buy online (52%), as opposed to shopping in-store.

Source: GWI Singapore Waves Q1 2023, Q2 2023, Q3 2023, Q4 2022 (Most likely to buy online vs instore in last month)

TikTok, reputed for being a virtual playground for teens, has become the fastest growing platform among the Asian silver generation. The silver generation are curious to discover what the younger generation are up to. By consuming popular entertainment content, TikTok is helping inspire intergenerational bonding with kids and grandkids.

“Unretirement” wave

Economist Chris Farrell in his book Unretirement shared powerful “entrepreneurial energy” stories of people who reinvented their careers in their 60s and 70s. With high inflation and interest rates that are unlikely to fall, the Asian workforce is pushing off retirement. In a recent survey in Singapore, those aged 50 and above support raising the retirement ages. In Japan, over 40% of companies hired people aged 70 or more in 2022.

‘Seniorpreneurship’ describes the trend of seniors starting their own business by leveraging their experience to challenge stereotypes against retirement. One inspiring story is Richard Koh, who started 1degreeC, a cold brew business in Singapore at the age of 54.

There is a shift in the attitude of the silver generation to continue leading an active and productive life.

The desire for independence and dignity is beautifully shown in an Indian telecom, Vi ad, that showed a nervous senior professor taking his first video class. The film shows exploring new territories enabled by connectivity.

A recent Singtel Lunar New Year film also celebrated the way technology can be used to renew a septuagenarian uncle’s passion for skating.

Watch out for the Granfluencers

One of the most exciting new trends is the rise of 'Granfluencers'. These young-at-heart influencers challenge conventional norms of what being an elder is all about and sing, dance, model, for millions of fans to see.

Photo courtesy of BONPON511 (Instagram)

Douyin influencer, @tlaolao, racked up more than 36 million followers and generates an average of more than $300k in media impact value per post. Ong Bee Yan is another instagranny from Singapore. Grandmother of two, she has worked with Estée Lauder promoting their skincare products.

Everyone has heard of K-POP. Have you heard of JI-POP?

JI in Japanese means “old man”. Japan has an all-senior 'boy' band, consisting of five citizens aged 65 to 87, who hold day jobs as farmers and fishermen. Their singing caught the attention of Universal Studios Japan who signed them up after the group’s debut single. They have performed around the country and even come together to promote tourism for Kochi Prefecture, a coastline in Japan.

Picture courtesy of Nextshark

Why should marketers care?

Gen Zs and gen alphas are the shiny, new obsession. The silver generation has been the marketing blind spot, caricatured in clichés or tick-box stereotypes, represented by a lack of ability, physical weakness, or mental inferiority.

This misunderstood generation is not slowing down, and instead, are taking on new challenges. They are not withdrawing from life, instead demanding more from it.

Their spending choices represent a spectrum of preferences, pursuing vibrant lifestyles highlighted by career changes, new passion points, and fresh interests. They are not a predictable, one-size-fits-all audience riding out the years. Rather, much like younger consumers, they represent varying preferences that regularly change, thanks to longer lives and the desire to live them.

Marketers must reassess the physical footprint, enormous purchasing power and cultural influence of the silver generation in APAC by:

  1. Changing the narrative through connecting with their lifestyle, rather than age.
  2. Stopping the inclination to show them as a burden or dependent, instead appealing to their renewed spirit of adventure and freedom.
  3. Leveraging data, technology and AI to enhance age-centered products and services.
  4. Relooking at how the digital world can build on their relentless desire to find a new purpose in life.
  5. Harnessing the power of a compelling emotional story since they are easier to remember than facts and statistics.

George Bernard Shaw famously said, “We don't stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.”

Can we make this necessary shift? Only time will tell.

This article was written by Aditya Kilpady, regional strategy director, UM APAC. 

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