Seniors, Boomers: What do I call them?

by Jeff Weiss

What do you call a group of people who have never existed before?

We like to put labels on demographic groups. For a variety of reasons, it’s simply convenient to put individuals into specific buckets even though the variations and differences of those individuals within each of the groups can be quite significant.

Take Millennials for instance — those people born between 1981 and 1996. That’s a 16-year time period if my math is right. Putting my 21-year-old son (born as one of the last millennials) who is about to graduate from college into the same bucket as my 35-year-old nephew who is married with a 5-month-old baby makes no sense, yet society and marketers insist on lumping the two of them together. I could provide dozens of examples of the differences between them that make this point, but I think you get my drift.

Similar to my son, at the soon-to-be age of 54, I am the youngest of the group that society calls Baby Boomers — those of us born between 1946 – 1964. Given the 18-year age gap, it is not inconceivable to think that a parent and his/her child could actually exist in this same demographic bucket. Scary but true!

Before we launched Age of Majority, we spent hours discussing and debating what we should call consumers over the age of 55, who are mentally, physically and socially active. We did a thorough scan of the labels and descriptors society has given this large and growing group of consumers and found a wide range of names including:

Seniors Mature Consumers Old People Of a Certain Age
Boomers Zoomers Perennials Over the Hill
Elders Golden Years Silver Tsunami Vibrant
Geriatrics Super Adult Old Farts Geezers
The Aged Old Folks Ancient Old-Timers

We also conducted our own consumer research and ultimately found that consumers 55+ don’t want to be labeled at all or placed in any particular bucket. Given the extent of ageism in our society, along with the stereotypes and stigmas that exist, the reality is that most older consumers don’t want to be referred to as being old, no matter what you call them. Just being identified as part of a group of older consumers carries associated myths and stigmas and most of these people want no part of it.

For example, if you ask an active 70-year old today what a “senior” citizen is, they’ll likely associate the term more with their parents or grandparents. Just using the term “senior” makes them cringe as it assigns them to a bucket they want no part of. While they might be dealing with some of the challenges associated with aging, they are vibrant with much to achieve, along with time on their hands and money to spend.

Circling back to Age of Majority, we realized that we did need a name or a descriptor that would allow us to articulate what the largest group of 55+ consumers is all about. After much consideration and input from a wide variety (and age range) of older consumers, we settled on the term Active Aging consumers. We think this term more accurately reflects the biggest business opportunity out there without alienating consumers who actually see themselves as part of this group.

Is the term Active Aging perfect? Perhaps not, but any attempt to describe one large group is unlikely to do it full justice. Our decision to use it, however, reflects our mission to understand, engage and represent the realities of the 55+ consumer, which will, no doubt, continue to evolve.

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