Basic needs of older people are missed by UK companies, finds ILC-UK Commission

Sep 27, 2018 | NEWS

  • 82% of over 55s feel their favourite retail brand “doesn’t understand” them and what they need .
  • Housing is also an issue: there is only enough specialist housing to accommodate 5% of the over-65 population.
  • Big spending older population represents huge opportunity, but brands have been slow to adapt

A thriving older population is being failed by products and services which have been left behind by their changing needs, finds a new Commission set up by specialist think tank the International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) with support from Audley Group and EY.

The over 50s in UK spend a total of £314 billion a year, equivalent to roughly 43% of total household spending on consumption . Over 65 aged households in the UK accounted for 48% of the growth in household goods and services from 2011-16 . Yet there has been a blatant disregard for not only the aspirations of this generation, but even their basic needs.

The Commission recommends that more needs to be done by companies, local authorities and other providers to utilize and implement new innovative products and services in community environments.

Older people in the UK are aware of global advancements in innovation and are expectant and waiting for a better quality of life through well-designed products, a wider range of housing and care options, and better designed towns and communities.

82% of over 55s feel their favourite retail brand “doesn’t understand” them and what they need . The Commission therefore called on the private sector, including high street shops, to recognise that inclusive design needs to be stylish, desirable and well-costed, much like designs for any other market. Many existing products stereotype the older consumer and are unappealing, particularly to a ‘baby boomer’ market which has, on average, been accustomed to a higher level of expendable income than previous generations.

The Commission recommends that to effectively market to a discerning older consumer, commercial brands and designers must radically wake up to the needs and aspirations of an increasingly growing sector.

Sophisticated design will also encourage older people to invest in home adaptations, or a new home, ahead of time to prevent problems such as falls. Innovative forms of housing and care for older people are emerging – but take-up in the UK is low compared to other countries. There is currently only enough specialist housing to accommodate 5% of the over-65 population.

New technologies have potential for improving health and wellbeing as well as facilitating social connections and a focus on people. Human contact will always be of fundamental importance and all of this should be taken into consideration of specialist housebuilders during housing planning stages.

Sally-Marie Bamford, Director of Research and Strategy at ILC-UK, said: “The social and economic landscape of consumers aged 50 or over has fundamentally changed. With a spending power of around £314 billion a year this generation presents a lucrative and untapped market. The sooner that businesses wake up to this and develop appropriate services – designing products that are inclusive and suitable for all ages the better. The government has shown leadership in this area at a national level – but the public, private and charitable sectors, have a collective responsibility and opportunity to make it happen

Nick Sanderson, CEO of Audley Group, said: “A Commission like this is long overdue. It’s about time that the world woke up to reality of the older generation: that they are no different from any other in their range of needs, desires, likes and dislikes. Over and over again we see brands either ignore this generation totally, or market to them in a patronising and uninspiring way. This is not only doing older people themselves a disservice, it’s also incredibly commercially short-sighted. The recommendations here really should just be common sense, so let’s hope that companies from across the spectrum listen and start to make a fundamental change.

The Health and Wellbeing Innovation Commission is today publishing three of its reports: