It’s a subject laden with cliché—“you’re as young as you feel,” “young at heart,” etc. Yet these sayings, however hackneyed, point to an aspiration that is becoming a reality. People are healthier, living longer, and retiring later—or not at all. They don’t look, act, or feel old. Today, people are coming to the realization that the way we’ve aged since the mid-20th century needs to change.
There is a shift occurring in mindset and behavior, and a cult of youth starting to fade, replaced by a culture of agelessness called The Flat Age Society. This group was first identified in 2010 by LS:N Global as the “Neo Boomers,” a tribe in their 50s and 60s reflecting attitudes that used to be the preserve of a younger generation. This isn’t about your grandparents going skydiving, however. It’s about a mind shift that sees the years after 60 as ones of possibility, where re-engagement, exploration, and expertise can be re-interpreted and re-applied.
Members of the new Flat Age Society are technology-savvy, love luxury and want more from food than soft textures and vitamins. For this group, images of 20-something models fronting advertising campaigns for anti-aging products seem incongruous and will no longer do. In this world, where Flat-Agers are revving up rather than slowing down, the term “old” is dead and gone.
WHY IT MATTERS:
This demographic is driven by more than the simple fact that they are aging, although it is certainly an important consideration. Here are some other factors to keep in mind about Flat Agers:
Demographic Destiny. The youngest members of the Baby Boomer generation are turning 50 this year, while the oldest are reaching their 70s. Baby Boomers represent a quarter of the population in the U.S., U.K. and Australia.
The average life expectancy in OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries has risen to 80 years old. As fertility rates drop in much of the western world, the proportion of people over 60 is projected to reach 34% of the population in developed regions by 2050, according to the UN.
The Great Awakening. “The baby boomers see their parents moving into nursing homes, and they realize that these are the worst places on the planet,” says Matthias Hollwich, founder of New York-based architecture firm HWKN and visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design. It’s a model that the first wave of baby boomers wants to avoid, for themselves and their parents. “Independent living is one of the biggest desires,” says entrepreneur Stephen Johnston, who co-founded Aging2.0, a global innovation network and start-up accelerator program aimed at improving the life of Flat-Agers.
Fragmented Families. In a world where children may live an hour, a state, or a whole country away, easy connectivity is growing more important than ever.
The Parent Trap. The flip side of the coin is that many children are still dependent on their parents. According to Pew, some 29% of 25 to 34-year-olds in the U.S. live with their parents. Further, a 2012 study found that 26% of Australian parents over 50 gave their adult children an average of $3,720 annually.
Design for All. Universal design means creating products and services that can be used by everyone, whether they’re 17 or 75 years old.
There are several salient examples of this change in mentality toward aging by brands that are in tune with their aging customer base. For example, universal design is an ethos that has been successfully championed by the New York-based housewares brand OXO, founded by entrepreneur Sam Farber in 1990 after he noticed his wife Betsey (who suffered from arthritis) was having difficulty peeling apples to make a tart. Since its first Good Grips range was launched in 1990, OXO has won more than 150 design awards and expanded its line to hundreds of products.
London-based designer Simon Kinneir specializes in design for those with diminished sight, as well as those striving to live independently. His Leaven Range incorporates a series of subtle tactile cues which help those with reduced vision cut vegetables, accurately place a pan on the stove, and see a clear glass on a dark or light surface, among other tasks. All the while, Kinneir maintains a stylish pared-back aesthetic.
Palo Alto-based start-up Sabi creates Moleskine notebook-inspired pillboxes and brightly colored aluminum canes built with sleek design and high-quality materials. Founder Assaf Wand says he’s tried to emphasize the positive, in contrast to the deflating marketing usually targeted at older people with medical issues. “It could be a fashion accessory, an extension of your personality, rather than something you want to hide and are ashamed of,” says Wand.
Other groups are also making the medical category easier for all. New online retailer PillPack delivers all of a consumer’s prescription medication in a roll of tearable sachets in a recyclable dispenser. The packets themselves are easy to open, and are sorted by day and time.
CAPTURING THE MARKET
Youth isn’t where the growth is any more. The Flat Age is where the consumers are.
Flat-Agers have more in common with Millennials than everybody else.
Value the sustainable
Give Flat-Agers the luxury products that they can feel good about.
From cars to travel, infuse the Flat Age with excitement .
Boomers want devices that help them to thrive and connect to the world
Celebrate 50+ people in campaigns, ads, and editorials.
Put design first
Great design is the key to making products that empower Flat-Agers.
Make it easy
Don’t ignore problems such as health issues. Solve them with great ideas.
Flat-Agers are splitting up and hooking up. Help them to get connected.
The market for 50+ mental and physical wellness is booming.
Age Wave consulting surveys show the number one thing Boomers want is more fun.