De helpende hand





human–technology–environment interaction




International Society for Gerontechnology (ISG)



person–environment interaction



user perspective

World Health Organization (WHO)

Before the 1990s, already many scientific disciplines devoted attention to the challenges of aging and the aging society. However, these activities stemmed mainly from the life sciences and social sciences. Some efforts were made toward integration of the research results from different disciplines as was the case in various human factors and ergonomics studies. But the involvement of technological sciences, architecture, and design was sparse or nonexistent in those days. Therefore, in 1988, a small team of researchers at the Eindhoven University of Technology, in Eindhoven, Netherlands, started an effort to develop a program of research and education in gerontechnology aiming at further integration of engineering sciences with those disciplines already involved in aging studies. The author invented the term “gerontechnology” in 1988.


The incubation of gerontechnology started in 1984 with the visit of a senior social worker to Eindhoven University of Technology: He asked for engineers to be involved in solving the problems and challenges encountered by aging people. The term “gerontechnology” was coined in 1988. A linguistic and content discussion about the use of this term is ongoing, but no other identifiers of the field that came up later could be appreciated as an alternative or a better solution (Graafmans & Brouwers, 1989). The first simple concepts for interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration were defined. This led to the organization of the first International Conference in 1991 in Eindhoven, with Herman Bouma acting as scientific chair (Bouma & Graafmans, 1992). The success of the conference gradually convinced many technological, social, and medical sciences researchers to come on board. During the visiting professorship of James Fozard at Eindhoven (in 1992 and later), a more elaborate model for gerontechnology studies was developed (van Bronswijk, 2010). Furthermore, in the early 1990s, the European network COST A5 (Cooperation in Science and Technology: Aging and Technology) was established. The political and scientific achievements of this network were instrumental to the success of the second international conference in Helsinki in 1996 (Graafmans, Taipale, & Charness, 1998), and in 1997 for the foundation of the International Society for Gerontechnology (ISG) under the leadership of Vappu Taipale, chair of COST A5, president of the Helsinki Conference, and first president of the ISG. Gerontechnology, a collaboration of engineers, social scientists, and other disciplines, emerged as the result of the need felt by professionals coming from many fields.


In the middle of the 1980s, it became clear to the Dutch government that demographic and social developments demanded radical interventions. A research and development program was started by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Culture, which, among other things, would facilitate collaboration between health and welfare workers and engineers, architects, and industrial designers. The ultimate goal was to create a better quality living environment for aging and aged people, supporting them to live an independent life of their own choice and for as long as possible.

An assessment was made of elderly individuals’ actual living environments with 500 questionnaires (response rate 25%), 30 site visits, and in-depth interviews. It became clear that (a) good-quality products and services exist, but most clients were not aware of this, (b) there were a lot of bad designs and many useless products, and (c) there was a need for new products and services in the market. There exists a potential for mass production at affordable prices when, at the same time, customizability to individual needs of products and services is taken into account. The assessment resulted in three major successes: (a) The field of gerontechnology was created, standing for the interdisciplinary collaboration between all professionals concerned with an aging society; (b) over 100,000 copies of “De helpende hand” (the helping hand), an information brochure, were distributed nationwide; and (c) the first simple models and concepts for gerontechnology were developed and used for a worldwide discussion between all relevant actors and experts.

After this long incubation period, a more refined human–technology–environment interaction model emerged, with an emphasis on older people, and this was used as the starting point by all the keynote speakers during the First International Conference on Gerontechnology in Eindhoven, 1991 (see Figure 1.1). The conference was a step forward toward future collaboration between technology and other sciences, targeting the challenges posed by an aging society (Bouma, 1992).


From the beginning of gerontechnology, its agenda has been the development of insight-based optimal technological environments for aging and aged individuals, targeting real people in their physical, mental, social, economic, and cultural environment. The concept of “real people” means those living an active life of their own choosing, adapted to their interests, abilities, and restrictions. It is important to understand that restricting disease, both physical and mental, is not central in gerontechnology, although health issues such as prevention and compensation of decline are part of the agenda. Rehabilitation medicine and rehabilitation technology resulting in products and services for disabled people already have a long history and gerontechnology can use these results to find solutions for the general consumer market.


Figure 1.1    Human–technology–environment interaction.

In the beginning of the 1980s, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) started a working group on aging and ergonomics. Initial findings were a perfect and resourceful breeding ground for gerontechnology. Design for aging did not exist in those days, and it was not considered to be interesting for consumer markets that were dominated by young or rich cohorts. Of course, there were undercover design and marketing activities in major multinational companies, but the findings of these were kept carefully “inside.”

The most important principle in gerontechnology is that people are just more than only their shortcomings. Developments in the field stemmed from three dynamic sources: (a) different generations of people, (b) ever and faster changing technological environments, and (c) advancing scientific insights (Bouma, Fozard, Bouwhuis, & Taipale, 2007; Bouma, Fozard, & van Bronswijk, 2009). The position of aging people in changing, innovative environments has been characterized by Powell Lawton (1998) as individual and sociocultural lag, the origin of which is that natural adaptation to technological and other environments stops at about age 30 and is then replaced by explicit learning directed at daily needs (e.g., at work). Here, it is worthwhile to note that retraining efforts at work in general stop at age 45 or even younger and that the average age of retirement is still around 60 or earlier. This implies that formal training or work experiences are not a resource for older people to adapt or adjust to the rapid cascade of technological innovations.


The major concepts of gerontechnology provide a framework for understanding and guiding research on human aging. The field is defined as the development and adaptation of technology toward the goals and ambitions of aging and aged people and it is application oriented in nature. The fundamental concepts underlying gerontechnology comprise: (a) four research and application areas of technology, (b) five domains of life activity to which technology is applicable, (c) the changing dynamics of person–environment interactions over time, and (d) the identification of a multidisciplinary knowledge base. These four concepts are relevant and can contribute to basic and applied studies of human aging.

The goals of gerontechnology are derived from those for public health such as the delay of age-associated changes in health and daily functioning (primary prevention); compensation for well-known and common functional declines, mostly in perceptual motor function (secondary prevention); care for persons with disabilities (tertiary prevention); and for all three to improve the quality of life as defined by the World Health Organization.

The four application areas of gerontechnology are equally relevant to five domains of human activity (see Table 1.1): (a) health and self-esteem, (b) housing and everyday functioning, (c) communication, (d) transportation and mobility, and (e) work and leisure (Bouma et al., 2009; van Bronswijk, Bouma, & Fozard, 2003).

The changing dynamics of interactions between people and their environment reflect both human aging within and between successive age cohorts and secular changes. This transactional view of aging addresses both the questions and methods used in gerontological research (Fozard, 2005). The interdisciplinary bases for gerontechnology, being the engineering and basic sciences of technology as well as the biological and behavioral sciences supporting gerontology, are basically the same as in gerontological research (van Bronswijk, Fozard, Kearns, Davison, & Tuan, 2008).



Gerontechnology has made considerable efforts to assess and influence the development in national and international innovation policies and the opportunities these present for the sustainable growth of this emerging field. Almost endlessly, different policies on old age, technology, and innovation are reviewed by scientists and professionals concerned with the challenge of an aging society.

Population aging was insufficiently politically targeted in the 1980s, despite the United Nations Summit on Aging in 1982. Gerontological issues deserve to be understood as cultural, social, and physiological phenomena, which demand multidisciplinary research and development in this young field of endeavor. Pioneers in Europe, the United States, and Japan created the core concepts that led to the creation of gerontechnology (Graafmans et al., 1998). From the very beginning, there was a strong user perspective and user-driven orientation. One of the leitmotivs was listening to the needs of an aging person and to communicate her or his needs to the multidisciplinary innovation teams and to the wider community, summarized as user involvement.

Thus, gerontechnology constitutes an excellent partner for innovation policies. There are many interesting opportunities to be challenged by in everyday life, self-care, and proactive prevention, as well as in creating better living environments in social, financial, and human terms. The existing political and research cooperation structures were slow to understand the new needs but COST (2012) accepted the agenda Ageing and Technology (Graafmans & Taipale, 1994) and the international networks started to develop, resulting in the foundation of the International Society of Gerontechnology. The European Union explored the issue (Smith, 1998) and gave it financial recognition in a substantial grant as a part of the Fifth Framework Programme of Research.

However, later developments have not been only positive. Today, there is a considerable interest in demand-side innovation policies in a number of Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries (Taylor, 2011). National policies increasingly stress the importance of innovation as an important part of research and development. In the European Innovation Partnerships (European Commission, 2011), one of the first topics was active and healthy aging. The lack of economic research and evaluation still makes evidence-based policy making difficult. If the world sees a positive development, we will be faced with an operating model based on which a well-informed aging citizen, the consumer of products and services, becomes a driving force of development.


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Graafmans, J. A. M., & Brouwers, A. (1989). Gerontechnology, the modelling of normal aging. In Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 33rd Annual meeting, Denver, Colorado.

Graafmans, J. A. M., & Taipale, V. (1994). COST-A5, Ageing and Technology 1991–1995. Final Report. Eindhoven, Netherlands: EUT-Centre BMGT.

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Lawton, M. P. (1998). Future society and technology. In J. Graafmans, V. Taipale, & N. Charness (Eds.), Gerontechnology. A sustainable investment in our future (pp. 12–22). Amsterdam: IOS Press.

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van Bronswijk, J. E. M. H., Fozard, J. L., Kearns, W. D., Davison, G. C., & Tuan, P. C. (2008). Implementing gerontechnology. Gerontechnology, 7(3), 325–329. doi:10.4017/gt.2008.





age-based segmentation

aging processes

aging consumers

biophysical changes

cohort-based segmentation

generational cohorts


gerontographics-based segmentation

life-changing events

life circumstances

life events


marketing implications

positioning for older consumers

psychological changes

social changes

The older consumer segment is growing in economic significance as its numbers increase globally. This trend will continue for several decades and it has implications across multiple facets of business and society, such as the labor force, marketing, investments, living arrangements, and health care. Europe has the greatest proportion of aging people, with around 15% of the European population aged 65 or older, in comparison with Japan (14%) and the United States (13%; Serre & Chevalier, 2012; United Nations, 2009), but many countries are seeing such shifts in the proportion of ages in their populations. For example, by year 2030, the number of people aged 65 and older in the United States will surpass the number of children (under the age of 09) for the first time in history (United Nations, 2015) and half of South Korea’s population is projected to be over the age of 50 (United Nations, 2013). With improvements in nutrition and health care, the global older population will grow steadily and so will its economic significance.

Companies cannot afford to ignore such a significant and growing group of consumers, yet a large number of companies have made little effort to market to the older consumer segment because they do not either see its importance or understand how to effectively communicate with this group (Moschis, 2003). This chapter discusses our understanding of older consumers’ behavior, as well as accordingly based effective marketing strategies. Although there is no single definition of the older or “mature” consumer market, most marketers prefer to define this segment as aged 50 or 55 and older (Moschis, 2003).


While the United States and several other countries have faced various issues related to aging populations, many others are some 10 to 20 years behind. To what extent will they follow a similar model as developed societies? Moschis (2003) observed that companies had paid little attention to older people prior to 1980, then witnessed various business mistakes due to ignorance or stereotypical assumptions, until evidence about mature consumers gained legitimacy and increased popularity in the 1990s. Many questions arise, such as the size of potential segments and the viability of reaching them, but the basic one is whether older segments need to be treated differently from younger customers. This will likely depend on the nature of the product or service, but companies have to invest time and effort into attempts at segmentation before addressing other issues. These are sometimes quite complicated ones as there can be many reasons why older consumers may differ in their wants and needs, as well as across countries.


The basic principles of marketing revolve around understanding customers’ wants and needs. These are different across people, so companies often attempt to apply the concept of segmenting, targeting, and positioning (STP). Due to potential differences in consumer behavior, marketers often try to cater to specific groups and to position their products and services in order for best meeting the needs of potential customers as opposed to a one-size-fits-all approach. The idea is a logical application of relevance (e.g., people with babies are more likely to buy diapers than those without), coupled with feasibility (can specific groups be reached in terms of targeted marketing communications, and in terms of distribution?).


The older market is a large and often highly diverse segment. Companies need to go deeper than exploring the differences of what consumers want, but they also must understand why needs may vary among older consumers, and how they may differ from younger ones (Moschis & Bovell, 2013). The former group has been found to have values that differ from those of younger consumers, such that they may be more present-oriented and self-indulgent, which can lead to more impulsive purchasing (Moschis & Mathur, 2007). But why do their values differ and how might this affect their behavior? Some companies do not segment based on age, attempting to reach as many customers as possible. However, values often differ across age groups, which generally affect consumer behavior. For example, those who grew up during a recession may be thriftier than people who did not. Multiple disciplines, including marketing, gerontology, and several areas of the social sciences, offer explanations. First, varying states can be due to differences in aging processes, which include biophysical, psychological, and social aging changes. Second, the older shoppers’ needs may vary due to life circumstances they have experienced, including contexts in which they have been embedded and that affected their mindsets, such as cohort and period effects. Third, their needs and motives are influenced by significant life-changing events, especially those that signify transition into new roles, like retirement and the “empty nest,” wherein children have grown up and moved away from home. This section will review types of changes that can affect aging consumers’ behavior in the marketplace and the way they respond to marketing offerings.


Many consumption needs of older consumers are driven by changes that occur as a result of aging in later life. Aging is a multidimensional set of processes that entails not only biophysical changes, but also social, psychological, and even spiritual ones. These tend to affect the mindset of elders and likely cause changes in their consumption needs. Older consumers tend not to be a homogenous group, even within the same age bracket.

Biophysical Changes

As age progresses, people increasingly have difficulty in reading fine print and need more time to adjust to certain light conditions. Such physiological changes affect the way older consumers respond to products or services and they generate different needs for marketing offerings. An example is the labeling on packages and information in print or online, which may be difficult to read. Another one is the difficulty in holding the product or opening the packaging of the product. The location on store shelves—as one vital point of purchase—also needs consideration, since many older consumers cannot easily bend down or reach up. Parking facilities should be supportive, floors need to have as few bumps or barriers as possible for accident prevention, and malls or stores ought to devote thought as to the amount of walking and the effort that consumers have to exert.

Social Changes

Individuals also age in different ways socially as they adopt disparate roles associated with old age, such as being a retiree and/or a grandparent. This means they may develop new needs and require products and brands appropriate for their newly attained roles. Retirement can bring about major changes and it has been found to be an important milestone in terms of how people approach their lives. The more active a person is, the more he or she is exposed to other people and new developments, including technologies, products, and services. It is common that younger people introduce older people to new technologies (see also Chapter 5) or simply new applications. As older people tend to have more free time, social media may be a welcome addition to their lives, which allows them to keep in touch with friends and family, as long as the technology is user-friendly and under the assumption that they have (already) adopted it.

Psychological Changes

The way older consumers feel, think, and act “their age” affects their reactions to products and services. Some may accept that they are “old” and behave in a way they deem appropriate, while others may view themselves as far younger than their biological age, which can lead to a conflict: For example, a cell phone with a larger keypad has benefits, but may also be less attractive to older consumers if it makes them feel they are old or seen to be old. The Raku-Raku (easy-easy) phone launched in Japan sounds nicer than the R-Ma (Chinese slang for grandmother) phone launched in Thailand, though both offer similar advantages. Many people can be observed squinting at their cell phones or menus at arms’ length as they resist accepting that it may be time to begin using reading glasses. Restaurants with menus for children may find that special menus for the elderly are not as readily accepted. Older people are often sensitive to stereotypes in advertising and they may even avoid purchasing products, if they conceive them as negatively portrayed (Moschis, 2009). This is a difficult path to navigate, as companies may feel that older customers should be treated differently, but this can backfire on them if elders resent being treated as old. Several companies learned this painful lesson after seeing their products fail, such as cereal, soup, and even shampoo marketed to consumers over a certain age.

Life Circumstances

Changes in needs can occur with age in later life, because of life circumstances that individuals experience or due to cohort, historical, and environmental factors, which tend to affect the mindsets of older consumers and this might generate specific needs. For example, if a group of elderly consumers grew up in times when innovation and experimentation were high as compared to other generations, their experiences may have shaped them for the rest of their lives (like attending Woodstock or growing up with the Internet). For this reason, their previous experiences might not only make these consumers more likely to buy new products and services, but also more open minded than those who grew up with different ones, such as during recession or extended periods of economic hardship. This is the basis for research on generational cohorts, which will be discussed in more detail on cohort-based segmentation.

Life-Changing Events

Individuals are likely to experience various life-changing events at different ages. Some cannot be anticipated, such as major accidents, natural disasters, or unexpected situations, but others are expectable, such as retirement. As people age differently and experience various life events, they often change their viewpoint on life. Elders may change their mindsets and consumption patterns due to such occurrences, like the perceived onset of chronic conditions; therefore, their needs for products pertaining to such events likely change. Thus, not only aging processes but also life events can lead to changes in consumption-related lifestyles and preferences. Distinguishing life events for individuals over 55 could include retirement, death of a spouse, changes in biological health, and the departure of children from the home. Role transitions may include becoming a retiree, a widow(er), and—in many Asian countries—a caregiver to grandchildren.

As the aging process brings changes, life-changing events and circumstances affect consumer needs in the marketplace and may serve as “drivers” of their consumption patterns. People experience different sets of circumstances, including aging and life-changing events, at different ages or stages in life and this is an ongoing process. Their needs are also likely to differ increasingly with age and thus might their behavior because they experience different life-changing events, aging process changes, and life circumstances. Therefore, it is not surprising that many studies show increasing heterogeneity in elders’ consumption (Meneely et al., 2009; Moschis & Bovell, 2013). Older consumers should not be viewed as one large group but rather as several diverse segments. Thus, heterogeneity among older consumers potentially requires a strategy of more segmentation by companies.


The older consumer market requires more segmentation than other groups, because individuals are increasingly dissimilar from others as they age. There are three distinct segmentation methods for the older consumer market:

       1.  Segmentation based on chronological age

       2.  Segmentation by cohorts

       3.  Gerontographic segmentation, based on aging, life events, and the circumstances of one’s experiences

Age-Based Segmentation

As mentioned earlier, efforts commonly used to segment older consumers tended to be based on chronological age, which marketers often use as a basis for then profiling the various age segments by using factors such as buying power, marital status, lifestyles, and health (Leventhal, 1991). However, this segmentation methodology has a major limitation: The correlation between age and behavior has been low (Rutter, 1989). Chronological age merely indexes the passage of time. Inferring changes in consumer behaviors from observed age differences would not be a prudent assumption either, as they may also be due to period and cohort effects (Littrell, Ma, & Halepete, 2005). Thus, although easy to use, this segmentation method is not effective, unless marketers understand the reasons for differences across age groups, especially changes in needs and wants due to aging and life circumstances.

Cohort-Based Segmentation

Schewe and associates (2000) recommend generational cohorts as a more effective way to segment markets because different age groups have been affected in a similar way by external events. Cohorts, which are groups of consumers born within close time periods, are connected by similar views because they share common life experiences (Schewe & Meredith, 2004). For example, music from the 1960s and 1970s has been used in television advertisements, targeting the—then—aging consumers because the music was popular during their early adulthood (Holbrook & Schindler, 1989). However, there are limitations to this segmentation methodology, especially if marketers are trying to reach people in more than one country. Although global events can also shape cohorts (e.g., global recession, world war), they tend to be localized and, thus, are dependent on how they affect each “generation.” Generation X, born in the United States between 1965 and approximately 1980, had a far different experience growing up in the United States during the 1980s in contrast to those from the Red Guard cohort, growing up in Communist China at the same time (Hung, Fan Gu, & Yim, 2007). Elderly in the United States may have experienced the great depression, and the baby boomers have shared many experiences, such as the Vietnam War, the first man on the moon, and the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, but these events would not have had the same effect on consumers in Asia, Africa, Europe, or elsewhere. Applying cohort effects requires understanding the underlying theories that attribute intercohort differences in behaviors to older consumers’ values that were shaped by experiences between their teens and early 20s (Schewe et al., 2000).

Gerontographics-Based Segmentation

The term “gerontographics” was coined to refer to research based on aging theories. Moschis and associates (1992, 2003) created four segments using cluster analysis from surveys of more than 20,000 consumers over the age of 55. The formation of these was based on several factors relevant to older consumers, such as their health, lifestyles, and life events experienced.

It is possible that the types of events experienced create needs and demand for specific products and services. Kotler (1992, p. 75) states: “A company can consider critical events that can mark life’s passage to see whether they are accompanied by certain needs that can be met by products or service bundles.” Previous studies confirmed that the person’s gerontographic profile in general was a better predictor of his or her responses to marketing offerings than other demographic factors, such as age, for understanding older consumers’ purchasing habits regarding a wide variety of products and services, like travel and leisure (Moschis & Unal, 2008), financial services (Moschis & Nguyen, 2008), housing (Guillory & Moschis, 2008), and health care (Moschis & Friend, 2008). Many findings with respect to older consumers’ responses to marketing stimuli based on their demographic versus gerontographic characteristics are consistent with findings of other studies, presenting the latter as better forecasters of consumer responses than demographics (Moschis & Friend, 2008). Thus, strategy development that emphasizes specific gerontographic profiles is recommended, depending on the extent to which consumers in a given group represent a viable segment for the marketer’s offerings.

Given that the gerontographics model was developed in the United States, additional research in other countries needs be conducted to validate this segmentation tool. Researchers and marketers who consider it need to resort to simple methods for deriving the segments, including fewer measures of aging, life events, and other circumstances experienced, as the original segmentation model was developed using a large number of variables and highly sophisticated analytic techniques.


Having reviewed segmentation methods for older consumers, this section discusses the marketing strategies of targeting and positioning. It was previously observed that a variety of approaches can be utilized, but there are pros and cons for each. As with any strategic approach to marketing, a company should ask if there is a need for segmentation in contrast to trying universal appeals. Then, a fitting market strategy can further be explored. The narrower the segmentation, the more a company risks alienating consumers not matching a particular profile. Because positioning is an important element in what is communicated through advertising, this section reviews the most relevant buying motivations of older consumers.

Although difficult to generalize due to great heterogeneity of the mature market, studies generally find that older consumers are less interested in social benefits and more interested in functional benefits of products or services: They are attracted to convenience and ease of use, quality, and reliability, and they appreciate personalized service (Moschis, 2009). Thus, these may be areas to emphasize when positioning a product or service, as they are likely to appeal to elders. Older consumers tend to have more money (although many also face financial difficulties) and to have more free time than younger consumers. They are also more inclined to shop during the morning hours and view shopping as a social activity, but also prefer the convenience of one-stop shopping more than younger consumers (Moschis, 2009). In some ways, this helps businesses, since there may be young-old differences in terms of patronage patterns. Companies should also be aware of and sensitive to various changes experienced by aging consumers, because there is a hazard of increased stress and anxiety. Older consumers may spend more time looking at products, gather more information, and be more risk averse than younger ones. In any case, those offering sales support must be friendly and supportive, not condescending or impatient. Companies may even give consideration as to employ salespeople of different ages.

Older consumers may prefer familiarity and go for brands they know or have already tried. However, free samples are potentially a way to get them to switch, as it helps reduce risk and creates more familiarity. Ease of use should be a guideline both in terms of developing products or services and in positioning them for older consumers (Moschis, 2009). Retail outlets may consider having benches or areas to sit, either to rest or as places to socialize. Restrooms should be easy to find and access; parking should be friendly to older consumers. Also, signage and lighting should be adequate to find things easily. Advertisements and retail outlets should keep in mind that it can be more difficult and time-consuming for aging consumers to process information; thus, communication should not be overwhelming, but slow, short, and simple. Further, caution needs to be exercised in terms of using negative aging stereotypes of older consumers and even the age of the presenter(s). Elders often perceive themselves as younger than their physical age and have been found to respond more favorably toward advertisements with presenters 10 to 15 years younger than themselves (Moschis, 2009). Particularly online texts need to consider that the display size can be scaled upward. Additional services may be offered, from valet parking to gift wrapping, as well as delivery and installation.

To the extent possible, companies should try to develop products and services that have intergenerational appeal, but they must be aware of potential differences between younger and older consumers to cater to all optimally. It can be a fine line to walk in terms of trying to appeal to elderly customers while not offending them by implying they are old or even conveying such messages directly. Still, given the global trends of gentrification, the issue of stigmatization for the elderly is most likely to become obsolete, maybe in some 20 to 80 years.


Although the world is increasingly connected and consumers share knowledge and experiences with the same brands of products, services, and even retail environments, cultural differences still exist of which marketers need to be aware and they must be careful not to adopt a “one-size-fits-all” approach. A consumer raised in a nuclear family within an individualist Western culture may have several differences from one who grew up in a collectivist Asian culture with an extended family. To what extent this affects products or services they purchase is likely dependent on the context, and the buyer, payer, and user may not be the same person. Asian cultures tend to have more extensive social networks wherein the elders are involved with childcare and possibly decision making, while family members may buy things for them, which they would not have bought on their own (e.g., a smartphone). A younger person in an Asian culture may be expected to seek permission from older family members before making a big decision (e.g., buying a car). Children may be viewed as children even through their adult lives, and they may possibly live at home with their parents and extended family. Generational cohorts are not the same across countries; thus, careful exploration is a conditio sine qua non. Different cultures have different views of time, such as time pressure or the lack of it, and they can be present versus future oriented, which affects savings behavior or the purchase of life insurance. Some societies emphasize thrift, while others are more hedonistic and impulsive. Most Asian cultures emphasize respect for elders, thus advertisements and salespeople may need to ensure they fit in with cultural norms. “Face” and status are also important, in contrast to many Western cultures, and those aspects tend to have an effect on the popularity of brand names, as well as luxury goods. As more people move into condominiums within big cities, the extended family may be difficult to maintain. Will younger consumers be willing to place older relatives into assisted living facilities and will it be socially acceptable to do so? It appears the younger individuals show more similarities than—at the time of this writing—older consumers do, thus, as time progresses, there might be more homogeneity among aging consumers, but cultural differences are still likely to exist. As posited by Moschis (2009), biophysical aging processes are more probable to show similarities among consumers and to predict consumption patterns among people globally better than segmentation based on psychological aging theories.


While increasing knowledge about consumers’ values and their life experiences can allow marketers to understand their potential wants and needs, it also requires the collection and analysis of a great deal of information. Among others, nutrition, education, occupation, and quality of health care need consideration. Biophysical changes are somewhat predictable, based on averages observed in a given population, but consumers growing up at different times face situations that affect their values and lead to so-called “generation gaps,” such as baby boomers who grew up during prosperous times in the United States as compared to their parents’ less frugal ones. There are global events that may be shared by most, yet there are also localized events, such as recession or natural disasters, that can affect life experiences and influence the formation of values as well, and—hence—generational cohorts. Life events differ among people and continue happening throughout each person’s life, causing them to reevaluate their views and goals. This means that marketers hoping to effectively market to older consumers need to invest more effort in understanding their potential target market and see to what extent there are common denominators in terms of motivations, whether positive or negative, and address these. The benefit of these efforts is that products, services, and marketing communications should potentially be more effective. Marketers must exercise caution in terms of how they communicate and whom they choose to use as presenters. Older consumers often do not like to be singled out, and may reject offers specifically targeting them. There may also be issues in terms of collectivist cultures as to who is involved in decision making and who makes actual purchases. Marketers must be cautious about assumptions based on their own culture, for example, time pressure, as this can affect motivations and behaviors, such as shopping for leisure versus shopping online. Finally, most of the research findings presented here are from studies in developed Western countries, thus it remains to be seen to what extent other countries will be different as their populations become older. It is hoped that this general framework will help companies better understand key issues related to developing products and services and to applying STP marketing when catering to older consumers.

Our practical recommendations: (a) be aware that older consumers may be less heterogeneous than other age groups, even within one market; (b) investigate whether segmentation is needed, or if a broader approach with intergenerational appeal based on shared motivations might be applied; (c) exercise caution when targeting older consumers because they often are sensitive about their age and may not like being singled out; (d) give consideration to the biophysical effects of aging in terms of store layout, parking, lighting, amount of walking required, location on the shelves, and even signage and packaging; (e) keep in mind that older consumers may spend more time and have more questions, so ensure salespeople are patient and not condescending, and even consider hiring salespeople of different ages; (f) consider offering trial of products or services so that older consumers can become more familiar with them, which may enhance the chance of adoption; (g) consider that older consumers may be more concerned with functional benefits, such as convenience and ease of use, quality, reliability, and personalized service; and (g) be aware that many of the studies and recommendations have come from Western countries, so caution should be exercised in terms of potential cultural differences such as decision making and time pressure, as they may affect consumer behavior.


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