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Age is a number, longevity is irrefutable, but not for AARP

MetLife study pegs older at 40.  Down it goes. No, that’s not the value of the dollar. It’s the line at which 'mature' markets and older adults are segmented and studied in this doom-and-gloom study. The latest from MetLife -- On the Critical List – mulls the impact of obesity and the rise of chronic disease among the 40+ population, but on page 9, it’s coughing up a technology to promote independence – you guessed it, the Personal Emergency Response System (PERS). Sure. Meanwhile, on the other end of the demographic dial, we find an impressive rise in a population living to 90 and beyond. Now the fastest growing group in the older population, some suggest that a change in the definition of the oldest be moved from 85 to 90.  And life expectancy continues to rise among those who might have the money to buy goods and services, creating a viable target markets for sellers of goods and services.

Yet AARP soldiers on, laser-focused on the 50+ market.  Check it out -- AARP on its home page is, well, being its sexy self. Advice for the love-starved 50+? For its B2B partners, how to market travel to the 50+? What health innovations will matter to the 50 and older? Ah, those 50+. So similar to the 40+ and even the 30+ -- all love-starved, traveling, and in need of health innovations. But what if AARP were to examine the real and upward-shifting trend of age demographics? Might it segment its various well-funded and vocal media voices more broadly, allocating the mix more evenly to the interests of a five-decade range of ages, families, and needs? If so what might that collection of topics include?  

AARP and the rest of our lengthy lives. What about issues in the world of assisted living and nursing homes? Where is AARP on the renewal of the Older Americans Act which expired in 2011? Does AARP have a role or information about the changes going on in assisted living – from pricing and affordability to the rise in age of residents (age 89)? What’s needed to serve a frailer population -- should there be a model for dementia care, not left up to individual states which so easily cave to industry lobbying? Yet AARP’s What to Look For in assisted living document is dated 2009. What about end of life care for which AARP re-publishes content from Healthline?  So why should AARP go there from a market standpoint? How about the $259 billion in revenue the senior housing industry generated in 2011? That is more than the entire business travel industry spent during that year.

AARP should broaden its lens and its market message.  We know that industry membership organizations like ALFA and LeadingAge have plenty of material about senior housing trends, insights and information for industry insiders and executives. But who plays an objective role about that industry from the standpoint of the consumer – hint, it’s not Consumer Reports – or the durable medical equipment (DME) industry? Or the fast growing home care and home health care industries? Or the population that’s working into their 70’s, 80’s and beyond?  For the most recent commentary on this, it looks like we will have to learn more in SmartMoney.  Next month AARP is on vacation in Vegas.


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