Why It’s Happening
While fashion’s sudden interest in the over-sixty set seems surprising, it makes a lot of sense when you consider that the Baby Boom generation–the most sizable population group in the United States–is now between the ages of 48 and 66. And, at the risk of stating the obvious: They’re only growing older.
Currently the over-65 crowd makes up for more than 8% of the world’s population–and it’s expected to grow to 9% by 2016, according to Magdalena Kondej, head of apparel research at market research firm Euromonitor. Because the average life expectancy keeps growing older, we can expect these numbers to swell.
“Older people make up the largest part of the population and they are tired of being ignored,” Advanced Style’s Cohen told me. “Media either tends to ignore the senior set, or casts aging in a negative light. But with the internet and blogger boom images outside of the fashion industry have become very influential. Now, brands have taken notice and are realizing that they have to market towards ‘real’ people.” And increasingly, ‘real’–as in ‘average’–means older.
What’s more, being ‘elderly’ doesn’t mean what it used to. “The over 65s in developed economies are the fittest and most active in history, thanks to healthy and plentiful eating, good medical care and an active lifestyle,” Kondej said. “[Because of] these lifestyle and attitude changes, being over 65 is no longer considered being over the hill.”
Of course, brands aren’t just reaching out to seniors for the sake of inclusion. They’re doing it because there’s lots of money to be made. “One of the most interesting trends we are observing is that elderly consumers these days are more inclined to spend their money,” Kondej said. “The preconception of older consumers is that they tend to be more set in their ways than their younger counterparts, more frugal and less hedonistic, and more likely to save than spend freely. However, while this is not untrue, as attitudes to ageing have changed, a growing number of over 60s are increasingly drawing equity on their houses or taking on debt rather than leaving their assets to offspring.”
“In addition, in Western Europe, the age group with the greatest rise in average annual gross income between 2006 and 2011 was the over 65s, seeing growth of 3.9% in real terms,” she added.
So, basically, not only is the elderly population bigger and healthier than ever–it’s also richer. And far, far less thrifty. With the economy still in tumult, and unemployment still high among Millenials, it makes sense that fashion brands are hedging their bets and starting to go after the comparatively flush senior citizen crowd.