How do boomers define healthy aging? What is important to them as they age? How satisfied are they with their ability to achieve what they say is important as they age? Insight and research from the Natural Marketing Institute (NMI), based in Harleysville, Pa., show longitudinal changes in consumers' perceptions of what factors make for healthy aging and identify several shifts that have occurred over the past 20 years among boomers (those born from 1946 through 1964).
Whereas lifestyle factors, such as leisure time and career aspirations, topped boomers 'list of priorities two decades ago, other issues now take center stage. These include financial health, retirement, energy levels and disease prevention. Many of the shifts have created dissonance between what boomers want, on the one hand, and their satisfaction with their ability to fulfill those desires, on the other. Such gaps illuminate key opportunities for businesses because they reveal what boomers perceive to be unmet needs.
The perspective in this article was generated from a study of more than 1,000 adults in the United States in January 2005. The research, conducted annually, is compiled in NMI's healthy aging and boomer database.
Financial concerns top the boomers' list of priorities. Among 19 aspects of life addressed in the study, the three related to finances were among the five that study subjects deemed to be very important. Study subjects rated having enough money to retire as their number-one priority, with almost three-quarters (72%) indicating it is very important in their lives. Overall financial health, such as from saving and investing, was second on the priorities list with 67% of those surveyed saying it was very important. Having enough money for healthcare expenses was close behind with 63%. Other top priorities for those in the study center around health issues, such as having enough energy, preventing disease and getting good advice from doctors.
Although having enough money to retire is the top priority among boomers today, this was not the case 20 years ago, when boomers were mainly concerned about lifestyle factors. Not surprisingly, boomers surveyed said that when they were in their 20s, 305 and beginning to turn 40, their main lifestyle priorities were having a healthy, active sex life, followed by securing a successful job. Career was also a high priority, but balancing work with home life was important as well.
Also, leisure time was of higher importance for boomers in the 1980s than it is now. Currently, the boomer generation may be at a point where financial concerns have trumped leisure because boomers are more aware now that a comfortable retirement with plenty of leisure time depends on their accumulation of money. The only constants in top priorities over the past 20 years among boomers are having enough energy and having enough money for healthcare.
Comparing the importance level boomers accorded an aspect of life 20 years ago to how high it ranks today can offer valuable insights. For instance, even though having enough energy ranked third both 20 years ago and now, only 38% of boomers circa 1985 rated it as very important compared with 64% in 2005. The change of 26 percentage points represents significant growth in the number of people who consider energy level to be a high priority.
As the "Top Priorities" chart on this page shows, the aspects of life that have increased the most in priority rank are-perhaps not surprisingly-having enough money to retire and financial health. The desire to hold a successful job and the wish to have a healthy sex life retain as much importance now for boomers as they did 20 years ago, but other priorities have intensified more since 1985.
Even though their priorities are set, boomers are not necessarily satisfied with the degree to which they are achieving them. Actually, boomers surveyed were dissatisfied with how they are handling many matters that top their priorities list. …