The Baby Boomers have hit 60. There’s a huge influx of women over 50 – the people with the most disposable income, by the way, yet everyone still appears to be selling to the 18-30 market segment. This generation has been like the elephant in the python drawing in The Little Prince – a huge block moving through and changing the system.
So, what do they want? Youthful and appropriate clothes that fit, for one thing. The New York Times was inundated by letters to the editor in response to an article about stores eliminating Petite departments. If you are over 50, short, wide, or (gasp) both, in addition to having a financial advisor and a good lawyer, it’s time to retain a tailor. While Chico’s and Eileen Fisher attempt to address this need, it’s nearly impossible to find a contemporary, stylish business suit that actually fits.
They want gyms and spas that focus on efficient, effective methods and don’t necessarily double as hot spots to meet men. Curves caught on to this right away.
They want meaning and purpose in their lives – whether still working or retired. One interesting recent phenomenon is that Boomers are taking early retirement, leaving huge shortages in experienced workers in many organizations. AARP has developed partnerships with 21 organizations interested in hiring older workers, and that number is likely to increase. As more women want to return to high-profile jobs once their children are in school or are leaving home, there’s an emerging market for transition programs. Graduate schools including the Harvard Business School and the Tuck School at Dartmouth have developed executive development programs for women returning to the workplace.
Volunteering is also on the rise. The Transition Network in New York City has scheduled a workshop to help women over 50 discover if serving on a non-profit board is for them. They also sponsor volunteer opportunities as diverse as helping Girl Scouts with an art project to registering Seniors for health care programs.
Community is another important concern. Separate, gated communities are one possibility, but not right for everyone. Community means opportunities to interact, to remain active, to access cultural activities. The concept of NORCs (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities)has been around for decades, but needs nurturing. How can women over 50 remain connected outside of their family circle? Book clubs, conversation cafes and salons can all help fill the need for meaningful contact.
Financial concerns shift. Many women worry about outliving their retirement savings or having to drastically reduce their lifestyle. More women will work longer – whether full-time within organizations or part-time or as independent entrepreneurs. All of these women, and especially the single women, have very different financial concerns from their mothers and grandmothers. A new breed of financial consultant – wealth and retirement strategists – is emerging to meet their needs.
Some women in this group are single or in non-traditional relationships. Some are charter members of the “sandwich generation.” This group needs help in juggling multiple priorities as they struggle to raise their children while supporting their parents. There’s room for a wide range of coaching and other supportive services for this group, from help in setting priorities and getting organized through help in planning the future of aging parents.
What do these women want? Respect, support, quality goods, and uniques service options. It’s time for providers of goods and services to rethink their plans and find ways to serve this enormous market.