Boomer business opportunity knocks on aging’s door

Sharp contrast separates business and service lenses of baby boomers. You might think you were in different planets – at last week’s Aging in America conference, on a Wednesday a discussion of "E-commerce, MobileVideo, Gaming and the Mobile Wallet" at the 2012 What’s Next Boomer Business Summit – a conference within a conference. The next day at ASA, you could consider "Successfully Integrating Boomers for a Sustainable Senior Center Model."  When picturing the 50+ segment, is it the hop-skipping-and-jumping boomer, the entrepreneur boomer, the service-providing boomer, the shopper in the AARP lens of the  Longevity Economy (What’s Next), or perhaps it’s the live-forever boomer, straining our budgets and reducing our expectations (ASA)?

Charts for all -- what you saw is what you got. The Boomer Summit used the context of longer life aging to frame enormous business opportunity inherent in the spending potential of boomers and beyond.  Starting businesses at twice the rate of the 20-somethings, boomers and beyond accounting for 60% of all spend – it sounds fantastic.  But with an average only $50K of retirement savings, will they retire? Breaking news, they are actually retiring -- according to MetLife: "The study reports that 59% of the first Boomers to turn 65 are at least partially retired – 45% are completely retired and 14% are retired, but working part-time." Which may explain that 26% of multiplayer gamers online are older than 50?  I mean, really, did you know that?

Start me up – new businesses lurk everywhere -- for boomers, by boomers. Intriguing thing for me: ASA is comprised of literally thousands of boomers staring through their particular social services lens at the world of aging. Yet the Boomer summit was crowded with pre-boomers expecting to make money in businesses for peers the age of their parents. See young people with an eye towards service, solving boomer struggles with caregiving (CareLinx, Moving Solutions, Caring.com), helping them be better grandparents, AARP focus, who knew? Imagine the contrast between Meals on Wheels and Weight Watchers! Discover services for mentoring and contractor businesses (MentorCloud and MBO Partners), mobile marketing and coupons (HipCricket and LivingSocial). All see markets – who knew the youngest grandparent was 48; that grandparents expect to pay some or all of their grandchildren’s educational expenses; that the 50+ population is the same as GenY but with three (3) times the spend?

Sad to say, boomers will be senior, sooner or later.  So let’s see a few market changes that could be What’s Next: consumer goods packaging that doesn’t require a hatchet; building codes incorporating universal design elements (hint to Florida); elevators and escalators that always work with platforms that are well-lit (hint to Washington’s Metro); walk lights that always exceed 20 seconds (hint to most of New York and DC!); reversal of incentives for doctors and hospitals to favor in-home care (hint to insurers); a plethora of appropriate transportation and housing options for the suburban-bound. Some hop and skip, some serve seniors, some will BE senior in the Longevity Economy. Even assuming willingness and ability to pay, will we all have the services and products we want to buy?