Seniors Attractive Market for Smaller Businesses

The year 2014 marks the 50th birthday of the last of the Baby Boomers. This is the age cohort born between 1946 and 1964. This group of 77 million Americans has long been an attractive target market for businesses. They make up about 35% of the population and control over 75% of the nation’s wealth. As they move into their senior years, Boomers are becoming potential customers for the products and services offered by small businesses.

It is a common misperception that older Americans do not have money to spend. While some have retired and are not earning wages, many seniors have substantial savings and pensions to spend. With the most recent recession, people are working beyond the traditional retirement age. Longer life expectancies are also contributing to the increase in people opting to work into their golden years.

Cynthia Wilt, Board President for Career Transition Center in Rocky River, works to help older people find jobs. “The important thing is to look for something you have a passion for and can do well into retirement. This will bring in some sort of income while you're doing something you love.”

Health care is the market that is likely to feel the biggest impact from the aging of the Boomers. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 71 million Americans will be over age 65 by the year 2030. In that same year, 20% of the population will be older than 65, compared with a current 13%. Today, 30% of aging Americans live alone and 90% of that group say they want to grow old in their own homes.

It is not a surprise that home health care for the elderly is one of the fastest-growing markets in the country's fastest-growing industry. Home health care is growing at about 12% a year, well above the overall growth of the economy in recent years.

Michelle Maus, Program Chair/Assistant Professor of Healthcare Administration at Tiffin University stated, “An emphasis ideally should be placed on building relationships and trust with your target market. It is essential for organizations to recognize that building relationships and trust takes time to develop."

Another growing industry that caters to older customers is assisted care and the nursing home industry. The Welsh Home in Rocky River is in that business. “The skilled nursing market is heating up with new buildings being built, management changes and a growing need to care for our seniors.  Maintaining traditions while continuously investing in staff training and nursing technology, The Welsh Home has remained competitive in Cleveland for over 100 years,” said Michael Bracken, the Welsh Home’s Community Liaison.

For the seniors who do have more money, managing that money and estate planning are important. "Asset succession is intergenerational. By serving just one client or married couple, we can also have a positive effect on their extended family and even the surrounding community,” said John D. Grauer of the Law Offices of Benjamin F. Farah, Ltd. in Rocky River. The financial services business is also focusing on managing the assets of the retiring Baby Boomers.

A number of Silicon Valley technical firms are trying to address the effects of aging. These organizations, including one called the Methusaleh Foundation, were started about 10 years ago to improve, if not extend, human life. Investors such as the early founders of Facebook and eBay are funding a group of scientists who are working on "fixing" the problem of aging.

Marketing Tips

When marketing to older consumers Maus says, “Consider targeting the daughter or daughter-in-law, ages typically ranging between 45-60 years.  This individual is typically the decision maker for an elderly family member.”

Bracken believes, “It is important for a senior health care provider to be a community resource for education.  Senior care marketeers are conduits to medical information, while building and maintaining a personal relationship with patients and families.  This is the foundation of positive quality outcomes in the health care industry.”

Perry Haan

Dr. Perry Haan is Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship and former Dean of  the Business School at Tiffin University.

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Volume 1, Issue 12, Posted 12:58 PM, 06.04.2014