Desperately seeking seniors - BearingPoint


Desperately seeking seniors - BearingPoint



Desperately seeking


Staying connected

with the over-60s

To get there. Together.


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Senior citizens account for an ever-growing share of the demographic.

The over-60s number 12 million in France (including 2

million over 80), 21 million in Germany, 33 million in Japan, 50

million in the United States and nearly 200 million in China. According

to the United Nations, there will be 1.5 billion over-65s

by 2050 and, for the first time in the history of mankind, they will

outnumber children under five. Long neglected by marketing,

nowadays senior citizens are receiving ever more attention. For

instance, MIT has set up the study laboratory AgeLab devoted to

them. Researchers there have developed Agnes (Age Gain Now

Empathy System), a suit that can simulate the bodily effects of

old age: reduced mobility, blurred vision, restricted movements,

clumsy fingers or displaced centre of gravity. It is used to test

products taking account of the impact of ageing, notably in a car.

The financial sector is also thinking about products adapted to

the ageing population: for instance, 50-year loans have recently

been introduced.

� While some sectors are still lagging behind, there’s nothing

new about offerings specially tailored for senior citizens. The

media have long offered targeted products: weekly papers, radio

stations, television programmes, etc. Indeed, this segment of the

population has some real advantages: older people have more


Desperately seeking seniors

time than younger segments, and above-average purchasing

power, at least in developed countries. Higher purchasing power

does not necessarily mean higher income, rather that the major

investments in life (accommodation, children’s education and

even retirement) are paid for.

However, senior citizens are not the easy Eldorado that you might

think, for one very simple reason: they don’t exist! Or rather they

do exist, but not as a uniform and homogenous group; in fact it’s

not easy to define this category. The civil service illustrates this

brilliantly: you can be a senior citizen at 35 if you work in certain

dangerous sectors like the armed forces, as a customer of public

transport you become a senior citizen somewhere between 60

and 65 depending on where you are and the type of transport,

and you can retire from age 51! According to the BearingPoint

human resources monitor conducted in 2010, on average people

are considered senior citizens at age 50.6.

Side-stepping into the world of telecoms shows the same thing.

The rate of penetration of mobile phones is lower among senior

citizens than in the rest of the adult population. It is a mere 72%

in 60-69-year-olds, and is no more than 45% in the over-70s. But

these figures conceal a real disparity. One third of the over-60s

are actually major ICT consumers: they have the highest level of

pay-TV subscriptions, are well equipped with video cameras, computers

and printers, in other words all the facilities they need to


Staying connected with the over-60s

remember their trip, their holidays with the family, and to communicate

with their nearest and dearest. On the other hand, the

other two thirds of senior citizens are much less open to technology,

are seriously under-equipped and make little use of it. While

age plays a role (those aged 60-70 communicate more than those

aged 80-90), other factors come into play, such as where they live,

their profession before retirement, income and family. We should

therefore treat senior citizens not as a single segment, but as several.

Some marketers have actually coined the term “medior”:

senior citizens who are high consumers of media, in the broad

sense of the term.

� The challenge for businesses today is therefore to understand

what a senior citizen is, using three main criteria to differentiate

the standard profiles apart from the classic income criterion:

work, connectivity and dependence.

� Work

The term senior citizen is often equated with a retired person.

However, this holds true less and less. Several categories of senior

citizens can be distinguished according to whether they seek

a well earned retirement as soon as possible or keep on working.

In France, the retirement age for researchers is often cited as an

example, with some acclaimed scientists preferring to go and live

in the United States to carry on with their work. Those who want


Desperately seeking seniors

to keep working can do so by staying in their career where the

law allows, or by becoming self-employed. Another option, specialist

professions associated with older people are developing,

notably management temping, independent consultancy and

education in private institutions. Another example is unpaid work

in the voluntary sector. Whatever the chosen form, whether or

not senior citizens keep working in a professional or para-professional

capacity is one factor that differentiates them.

� Connectivity

Low usage of mobile phones and the internet in those aged over

65 if often explained by the fact that these are generations that

retired from 1995-2000, who did not have to use these tools in

their careers. However, aside from work, some senior citizens

have discovered technology as a means of staying in contact

with friends and relatives, despite being geographically separated.

Senior citizens with a large but far-flung network of friends

and family therefore tend to use their car or ICTs more often, for


� Dependence

This is developing into a major societal issue in developed

countries. In the US Congress, one of the key debates over the

past year concerns the budgets allocated to “green” technologies


Staying connected with the over-60s

for the environment versus “grey” technologies for ageing. In

France, the issue of the “fifth risk to social security” (dependence

of older people) is also a matter of political debate. The ageing

population and the desire of older people to live at home as

long as possible are prompting the development of new economic

sectors and new services. Noteworthy among the latter are

new insurance policies, personal services, remote surveillance

services, domestic medical care for people living at home and

the ecosystem linked to sheltered accommodation, or retirement

homes which receive senior citizens who are no longer able to

live at home.

All these parameters indicate that there is no homogeneous

population of senior citizens but rather a wide variety. Despite

this variety, businesses are showing that they can offer suitable

services or products, without stigmatising these populations

but taking account of their specific needs! For economic players

the challenge is to pin down these three criteria. Indeed, the

life event “retirement” or “becoming dependent” is not readily

recognised, and a senior citizen may quickly disappear “off the

radar” in our connected worlds. So this is the real challenge for

ICT players: keeping track of senior citizens through the various



Desperately seeking seniors

Looking at the example of reducing the digital divide, it has several

dimensions. Senior citizens have not generally had to use

a computer at work, they have recently discovered how to use

SMS and they often don’t speak English. So they definitely need

guidance to start with. Accessibility, in the telecoms and internet

senses of the term, must be managed, moreover. They need to be

given access to relevant networks and sufficient equipment, whether

personal (at home) or shared (in retirement homes and hospitals).

Account must also be taken of readability or more general

access to data: “Big Button” or “Katharina” telephones, facilities

for hearing problems – the raku raku phone by NTT DoCoMo slows

down the speaker’s voice, for instance panic button, etc. Finally,

content must be specific to senior citizens. Massively parallel

games are likely to be of less interest than managing family photos

and films. Internet access in retirement homes is of as much

interest to residents (keeping in touch with far-away families) as

to health-care staff (forms, new rules, etc.).

Another pivotal issue, ICTs can contribute to the policy of keeping

older people at home for longer, by making their habitat more

“communicative” to meet various social, health and security


• Communication in the true sense of the word. This means basic

services such as internet reception, telephone, television and

music playback throughout the house or digital photo frames re-


Staying connected with the over-60s

motely updated by the family, in other words, any services that

can help to combat isolation;

• Comfort relates to a number of solutions that can be used for

remote control of aspects of comfort in the home: managing

and adjusting the lighting or heating, remote opening of doors

or shutters as programmed at different times of day or other circumstances

(the family, with remote update, can assist in case of

emergency), etc.;

• Security covers all means to improve warnings of danger: detection

of intruders, smoke or gas in everyday life; remote assistance/

surveillance to offer medical assistance to an isolated person in

difficulty etc. The older person can be monitored using sensors

in the home or worn on the body to detect the sudden loss of

balance that may precede a fall;

• Virtual reality offers new services for functional re-education in

the home: entertainment, physical exercises matched to their capabilities,

brain training, plus the social and psychological aspects

of self-esteem.

Businesses will therefore have to don the Agnes suit to fully understand

the differences between senior citizens and also properly

appreciate the nature of the services and products to offer them,

taking account of the impacts of age on people and their expecta-


Desperately seeking seniors

tions in relation to their environment.

� Yes, senior citizens are potentially a major market for businesses,

especially as this market is growing naturally. In Europe,

a 60-year-old senior citizen still has 20 years to look forward to,

a figure that has soared by six years since 1974. We used to talk

about the third age; maybe tomorrow we’ll talk about the third

or fourth life that begins at 60. An unmistakable sign: training

institutes are beginning to devise educational programmes for

the over-60s to help them acquire new skills. To achieve that, businesses

must discard their often caricatured view of senior citizens

and begin to comprehend the complexity and variety of this

multifaceted category. In particular, the technology sectors, often

driven by the cult of youth, must also embrace our older citizens.

Henri Tcheng and Jean-Michel Huet


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