~ George Burns
Aging might be a fact of life but we're quickly changing the way we live it.
When I was young, turning 50 meant living a stereotype. Back then, many women in their fifties were already looking like "old ladies". Some were clad in black, their gray hair gathered up in buns. They'd stay at home to cook, clean and catch afternoon soaps on TV. With aging fixed in our social consciousness, turning 50 meant living life through a rear view mirror.
Not so today. Greater affluence, increased life expectancy and access to higher education are part of the shift. Cheaper air travel, advances in technology and marital reorganizations are also causing old norms to fade and new ones to pop up everywhere.
I recently learned about a 50+ ReMovement study conducted by Ketchum, the global PR and advertising giant, which surveyed habits of people 50 and over. Checking into its research, I discovered a demographic sounding a lot like me -- especially when I noticed repeated use of the word "relevance".
Relevance Now Determining 50+ Lifestyle and Purchasing Patterns
Ketchum's study claims that today's mid-lifers, whose kids have grown up and whose frenetic career stress is behind them, suddenly have time to reflect. Reflection time is translating into changes both in lifestyle and purchasing.
The 50+ demographic is exchanging relationships, behaviors and brands that have lost relevance. This group is "removing" what isn't adding value and replacing the voids with people and things they find "life-enhancing."
My husband and I were early adopters of this life-enhancement concept, so I could relate.
Several years ago my husband and I were suburbanites presiding over a computer firm. Though our business had grown, it was progressively lacking in purpose. With our only child preparing for college, we wanted to enhance our lives by creating new socially impactful careers. We decided to sell our house, close our firm and buy a smaller place. I relished the opportunity to shed decades of excess "stuff".
A new town house with low overhead made for easy maintenance and frequent travel. We filled the new space with purchases to support our future lifestyle: furniture designed for less company, office spaces for two, my first baby grand piano and a sports car to replace the family-sized SUV.
Several questioned our sanity but, according to Ketchum's ReMovement study, others are following in our wake. Whether its midlife malaise, dwindling opportunities in corporate careers or just free-wheeling spirits wanting to blaze innovative paths of their own, people 50 and over are replacing old norms with new ideas about what's relevant.
ReMovement in Business, Health and Wellness
Judy Hoberman, President of Selling In A Skirt, is part of this demo. She's a trainer, coach and mentor of professional women who embraces and celebrates the 50+ ReMovement phenomena.
"We're getting ready to live the next chapter of our lives," says Hoberman. "We are starting businesses and taking risks . . . because we can. We've gotten through the child rearing stages and have navigated the infamous glass ceiling. We're getting as close to being balanced with our lives and careers as we have ever been."
Changes in this demographic extend beyond traditional business and into health and wellness.
In her post-50 years, LindaJoy Rose, Ph.D., took her hypnotherapy expertise and extended it into raw fusion cooking as a means of improving her own health. Now the developer of Natural Wellness Academy, Rose provides holistic health and life coaching to a growing number of devotees.
"We rarely see images of people 50+ starting new learning and career adventures, yet a remarkable percentage of our certification candidates started their program over 50," says Rose. "Not only are many baby boomers gearing up for new careers, but they are passionate about learning how to support their health, age gracefully and pass this knowledge on to others."
AARP and FIMBA Reflect the New 50+ Demographic
Formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP welcomes those 50 and over into its 38 million member roster. Now touting magazine covers with Brad Pitt, Paula Abdul and rocker Bon Jovi, this demo appears increasingly less "old" or retired.
More affluent and educated than their predecessors, AARP's new demographic accounts for a huge share of high end digital purchases. Jen Lee Reeves, AARP's social communications trainer and strategist, brings innovative digital literacy programs to its members. She calls this demo both "flexible" and "eager to acquire new digital skills" -- especially when they're deemed relevant.
Reflecting further upon the 50+ ReMovement trend, I didn't have to look beyond my own husband. A midlife athlete and basketball junkie, Jim Sweeney plays locally three times a week and now travels globally to compete in his beloved sport.
The former three-time Boston College basketball captain now serves as Head of USA for FIMBA, the Federation of International Masters Basketball Association. Jim Sweeney devotes his time and travel dollars to stay in shape and compete in tournaments on several continents each year.
"I consider myself very fortunate to compete at age 58 -- even if I am now iceberg quick. For me, there's nothing better than traveling, trash talking and teaming up with my basketball buddies."
The New 50+ is Here to Stay
Today's 50+ demographic is bold, innovative and often embracing of change. People 50 and over are fast becoming more recognized for their influence, affluence and willingness to do things differently -- and anew.
The Ketchum ReMovement study codifies and underscores an innovative, rather than reactive, new midlife demographic whose social, economic and business relevance remains heady. But for stalwart advertisers who ceased paying attention to midlife consumers, the study should serve as fair warning: Catch up with this new 50+ demographic . . . or they just might ReMove you as irrelevant.
For more information on Maura Sweeney's books, podcasts, videos, public speaking and on-line courses, connect with her at www.Maura4u.com. Follow Maura on Twitter @Maura4u.