A New Aging: Getting Older Looks Little Like It Once Did

Part I of a two-part Q&A with Dr. Nancy L. Snyderman, surgeon, former Chief Medical Editor at NBC News and active corporate board member. Read Part II, A New Aging: Beyond the Physical.

After thirty years as a head and neck surgeon, network medical correspondent, a Consulting Professor at Stanford University and board member for several health care organizations, Dr. Nancy Snyderman has gained a broad and unique perspective on health and wellness in society.

As an expert in health and wellness and as an Active Ager she offers a particularly insightful take on how people 55+ today are approaching what Dr. Snyderman calls the “third third of life” with profound meaning for anyone hoping to understand and connect with this audience. Age of Majority spoke with Dr. Snyderman about the attitudes, interests and behaviors around the new definition of aging. Here’s Part I of a two-part blog on what we heard.

AoM: What philosophical shift are you seeing in the 55+ group today that might contrast with the popular perception of this demographic?

Dr. Snyderman: The 55+ crowd is attacking life with a new energy. It isn’t based on a sense of urgency that life is running out.  Rather, we don’t want to sit on the sidelines and wait for life to run its course. We want to participate. We are interested in experiential living, self-improvement, and re-igniting old passions. We are auditing courses at our local colleges and universities and becoming more politically and socially engaged. The money that we have saved can now be spent on ourselves especially when it comes to things like travel. An Active Ager may be going through a philosophical re-awakening but may just as easily come to the realization that the time for a payment from life’s hard work is due now. And that prioritization of how and when to spend money can now be an investment in us.

AoM: What are Active Agers doing physically to keep themselves healthy so that they can get the most from what you call the “third third of life”?

Dr. Snyderman: First of all, we have the knowledge, resources and desire to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Active Agers have grown up in an era of abundant food supplies with the belief that, if we get ill there are medicines and the care to address the problem. We have access to considerable nutritional knowledge, good food and take an interest in labeling that explains nutrients, additives, and where the product came from. Vitamins and supplements are a mainstay of our health routine. We will do what’s necessary to stay active. It’s not unusual for people in their fifties and sixties to undergo knee or hip surgery so that they can maintain a healthy lifestyle. We are also willing to combine traditional Western medicine, along with Eastern medicine like acupuncture. Nothing is off the table.

AoM: What are some of the implications for the health and wellness industry of Active Agers’ new attitudes towards and pursuit of an active lifestyle?

Dr. Snyderman: As Active Agers defy their ages and are searching for new experiences and re-investing in their health, the industry has taken note. We are informed consumers and want to be engaged in decision making whether that means knowing the source of our foods, taking supplements, or having frank conversations with our health care providers. We are not a passive audience.

A challenge facing the healthcare industry is transparency in pricing. We want proof that things work in the over-the-counter market.  And we increasingly want to know how much things cost and about breakthroughs in science and how we can be part of clinical trials. As the sequencing of the human genome was cracked a new and exciting era in medicine has opened up. Active Agers know this and want to be front and center in this movement. We want to talk about the balance of patient privacy and the democratization of DNA and medical treatments that may become available.

We know we aren’t going to live forever. That’s not the issue. Marketers should be targeting our group with products that address our desire for quality of life not just length of life.  We want products that motivate us, inspire us, and push us a little. We want to keep learning through enriched experiences.

In Part II our conversation with Dr. Snyderman we explore her own pursuit of health and quality of life, her routines and preferred products with unexpected insights for marketers.

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