The baby boomer generation might be getting older but that doesn't mean they're becoming predictable, says Crowd DNA senior consultant Laura Warby. Brands are slowly but surely changing the way they communicate with this cohort, and here's why...

The week before last I bumped into a family friend in the Westfield shopping centre. She was laden down with bags from The North Face and Ellis Brigham Mountain Sports. When I asked her about what’s in them she told me excitedly that she was off to Costa Rica in a few weeks to go white water rafting, a celebratory trip to mark her retirement from 34 years as a teacher.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised. Work we completed for Global Radio showed how alike the older and younger age groups can be. Within families these groups communicate more than ever and it seems that all the facets of ‘starting out’ happen again post-family.

Fewer and fewer people are retiring in the way we used to. A study by UCL last last year showed that many 65 year olds perceive themselves as 10 years younger than their actual age and as life expectancy increases, calls to reassess what is defined as old age are gaining traction. It seems that the innovative world of advertising is lagging behind on this one, dismissing this consumer group far too readily.

Closer inspection suggests an underestimation of this cohort.

65 year olds tend to perceive themselves as 10 years younger than their actual age
65 year olds tend to perceive themselves as 10 years younger than their actual age

ONS figures show that they’re more likely to get divorced than any other age group. Our own data says they’re as eager to seek out new experience as anyone and are much more confident in their ability to do so.

As children fly the nest, mortgages are paid (particularly for those Boomers who’ve ridden the housing wave) and the pressure to work dissipates, the amount of responsibility carried around on their shoulders starts to subside, and with it comes a reassessment of what their life can mean.

More disposable income and improved health compared to 50 years ago has led this group to actively seek more exciting, experience-led lifestyles; more travel, new activities, new adventures… new partners (which may go some way to explain the huge growth in the number of people aged 60 plus going under the cosmetic surgeon’s knife, according to Spire Healthcare), all indicate that this is not a generation stuck in their ways.

That is not to say that all those over 65 are now carefree and hedonistic; on the contrary, many still find themselves with a significant number of years left to work, or still supporting adult children who have been affected in some way by the recession.

But that just goes to reinforce the point – this group isn’t homogenous and is actually starting to create new conventions.

Just as we have identified the tribes that exist within our millennials, so too should we take the time to understand the complexities that exist within older consumers too. When you consider that Euromonitor have predicted a global spending power of £10tn amongst the baby boomer generation, it feels like we’d be missing a trick if we don’t.