At age 47, I was inspired by athletes in the 2010 Winter Olympics to play ice hockey, a sport I’d given up seven years earlier after breaking my leg. A series of concussions forced me to quit again at age 50, but my passion for sports and competition remained intact, and I’m eager to find inspiration for taking up a new sport while watching the upcoming Olympics.
While Boomer-aged athletes aiming to compete this year are few, those such as U.S. equestrian Phillip Dutton, 52, remind me that going for the gold isn’t just for the young. And, younger athletes who are among the oldest competing in their respective disciplines are a reminder that age is irrelevant if the ability is still there—think Roger Federer and Michael Phelps, who at ages 34 and 30 respectively are competing in their fifth Olympics. Even more impressive is Uzbekistan’s gymnast, Oksana Chusovitina, who, at age 40, just qualified for the Rio Games and will be the oldest gymnast ever to compete at the Olympics.
While being an Olympic athlete is out of reach for most Boomers, being an athlete (or anything else) on one’s own terms is not. Boomers are the first generation to embrace 50 as the starting point of an extended second act with decades ahead to be active and self-fulfilled. They don’t see 50 as the demarcation between young and old; if anything, they see it as the demarcation between the first and second halves of their adult life. One might call this second half, “Adult 2.0.”
In the same way that a seasoned athlete may rely on experience to remain competitive at an older age, Boomers are leveraging a lifetime of acquired knowledge, self-awareness, skills, and considerable work/social/family networks to develop and capitalize on the real possibilities that exist in Adult 2.0.
While the old stereotype dictates that, after 50, the kids move on and 50+ parents are sequestered to “empty nests,” this perspective doesn’t reflect the reality for Boomers. In fact, with a large percentage of today’s Millennials living with their parents, Boomers are embracing “extended parenthood” as a chance to strengthen family ties and enjoy quality time with their Millennial children in a way previous generations might never have thought possible.
Additionally, today’s Boomers are involved with grandchildren more than ever before, serving as “enhanced grandparents” who are often daily, if not primary, caregivers. Boomers are also embracing being “committed caregivers” of aging loved ones, recognizing a silver lining in this role: an opportunity to give back and develop deeper connections with aging loved ones, other family members, and caregiver communities.
As Boomers continue to evolve and bring new relevance to family roles, they are also committed to evolving professionally in Adult 2.0. Many are embarking on brand-new careers or opening their own businesses, while others seek relevance in volunteering. Rather than slowing down, Boomers see this phase of working as a chance for new learning, new connections, and new levels of achievement.
While family and work are two main pillars of Boomer’s Adult 2.0, the underlying mindset extends to all areas of their lives. From travel to fitness and philanthropy, Boomers believe that anything is possible and the best is still ahead. Their perspective is creating new levels of visibility for people age 50+. For instance, since Boomers started turning 50, the percentage of gym members age 50+ has doubled from 15% to 31%. People 50+ now represent one out of every three people at the beach, in professional/managerial jobs, and in movie theaters. And, nearly half of all people in restaurants or traveling across the United States are 50+.
What It Means for Marketers
With Boomers seeing age 50 as a midpoint in their adult lives, marketers would be wise to understand that Adult 2.0 presents them with an opportunity to influence spending for three or more decades beyond the age at which consumers have traditionally fallen off their radar.
Boomers’ active lifestyles mean that their spending patterns are different than stereotypes might suggest. In fact, Boomer and older consumers now account for 51% of all consumer expenditures, indicating that spending is not curtailed after age 50.
Now more than ever, marketers can drive revenue by engaging older consumers with products, services and marketing that reflect the Adult 2.0 life stage.