The new aging: the population over 50 becomes more prominent


Two people are driving in Guayaquil, when one of them points to something. “Look!”, she says laughing, “That man, playing on a skateboard”. It is about an adult man, in sports clothes, who entertains himself alone on the sidewalk. A few seconds of silence, and the commentator reflects. «Well, what does it matter, he has the right.» It’s not much different than riding a bike, he adds after another silence. It is only the connotation of the rolling board: it is for children and teenagers, after that, do not use.

For this concept of men and women in their fifth or fourth decade of life who maintain or seek interests, styles and habits considered typical of young people or adolescents, the word midorexia has been used. They are accused of copying their children’s consumption habits in entertainment, music and technology, for using their codes to speak and write, and for trying to preserve the figure or appearance they had in their twenties.

The market strategy researcher Euromonitor International, which provides a list of the ten global consumer trends year after year, already assured in 2017 that by then almost a quarter of the planet’s population would be over 50 years of age, and that these Consumers were transforming what it means to get older in terms of lifestyle. “They are more demanding in their needs”, she assures the introduction of that year’s guide, “thus creating what is called “economy of longevity”.

For these people, coping with aging is equal parts anxiety and inspiration, and they are loyal consumers of a long list of fashion-forward health and beauty products, and are also increasingly receptive to technological developments. In short, they are ageing, but in a different way than the traditional one, and all this in a relatively short period of time, which is suddenly reflected in the consumption data.

As the Euromonitor guide is annual, for 2019 they spoke of a year of changes. Well, this segment of the population has a higher purchasing power, and they are pressuring brands to consider and respect their values. For example, those who are connected, although they dare with technology, are discovering the joy of disconnecting, of feeling and being treated like the youngest.

Midorexia, says trend consultant Daphne Kasriel-Alexander, is a label for middle-aged people (50 and older) who act in ways that are perceived as too young for their ages. «However, the label highlights for us the changing status and expectations of a group that is living and working longer, and prioritizing their well-being, while challenging behaviors considered typical and appropriate for older people.»

Kasriel-Alexander, who participates in the production of Euromonitor reports, shares that it is beginning to be suggested that brands focus less on millennials and more on customers over 50 years of age. According to AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), the annual economic activity of the longevity market in the United States exceeded (5 years ago) $7.6 million billion.

“The growing 50+ population represents a transformative force and net attribute, a rapidly growing contingent of active, productive people who are working longer and taking the economy in new directions,” AARP states in its manifesto The Economy. of longevity.

And what do the grown-ups want to do? New business ideas for the boomer market (born between 1946 and 1964, according to the Pew Research Center) are on the food side (food packages for people with health conditions, for example), online dating for seniors and personal yoga classes and instructors for those in need of low-impact exercise. The technology is also adapted to this segment, offering specialized home gyms and electric bicycles. One of the latest generation tablets, reMarkable promises users the feeling of writing with pen and paper again. In Miami and Phoenix, which have significant aging populations, the Envoy service offers to take care of light tasks like grocery shopping or walking pets.

Midorexia or the new disruptive age

It is curious that traditionally adolescence has been considered the disruptive age, but now all eyes are turned to transgressive adults who want to live as if they were younger. Service companies don’t mind. The new social network High 50 (rest in peace, Hi5), uses the slogan ‘Age has its benefits’, and focuses on the interests of this segment, which could well apply to people two decades younger: home, beauty, dating, exercise, food, health, money, entrepreneurship and travel. Especially the latter, because “the journey begins at 50″.

Age disruptors have their icons, and they want to see them. Gucci creative director Alessandro Michele said teen Instagram stars have a big impact, just not on a broader demographic, and chose models like Vanessa Redgrave (at 79) for her Cruise ad campaign.

Actress Renee Zellweger has been outspoken about the disparagement of older people’s bodies in the public eye. London Fashion Week 50+ in 2016 saw models like Daphne Selfe (then 87) and Marie Helvin (63), because a survey of women showed older women felt ignored. The actor Kurt Russel was, at 65, on the cover of October of that same year of GQ magazine, in jeans.

86-year-old Chinese model Wang Deshun still walks shows and works as a DJ, happy to disrupt what it means to be old in his country. In 2021 he enrolled in sport aviation classes, graduating. He opened Instagram a few years ago, but he seems to have little interest in social media.

If midorexia is a label, many feel they are right to use it, as there are products and activities (such as triathlons and ‘youth’ sports) that should stay within the established age range.

But this conception collides with the will of the people who do not want to stay there. Athlete Oksana Chusovitina, from Uzbekistan, had retired at the age of 44 at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but she decided to stay active during the pandemic. She this year won a gold medal on the vault at the World Cup of Gymnastics in Doha, and she is training to return to the 2024 France Olympics. She will be 48 years old by then.

What things motivate senior citizens, parents and grandparents, to stay active and healthy? The fact that they will live longer, of course, the need to adjust to life as natural aging takes its toll, and the concern of becoming a burden, financial or not, on their children and grandchildren.

One way to do that is not just to keep working, says writer Seth Godin, but through continuing education. Learning new skills and ways of working is vital to staying relevant professionally and socially. The trend of older interns is a reality (remember Robert De Niro in The Fashion Intern, 2015). A San Francisco spin-off of Encore finds retirees job opportunities in the nonprofit sector. It also happens at Goldman Sachs and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and the English bank Barclays takes trainees over 65 years old.

Solutions for the new aging

The concept of new aging is the subject of a series of publications in recent years, encouraging people to live smarter (start early, says writer and architect Matthias Hollwich), to cooperate with older professionals now, to be inspired to be less ‘ageist’ (another label for the tendency to discriminate based on age).

Professors Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott, of the London Business School, explain that the education-work-retirement model in which we have been raised is collapsing under the weight of multiple careers, new models of education and the continuing education, and new financial and health planning strategies must be created that are adapted to longer lives, new needs, with ample space for family and social life. Technology can help with this, so older people can take care of themselves at home, say anthropologists David Prendergast and Chiara Garattini, Intel contributors. And so is politics, adds Michael Hodin, leader of the Global Coalition on Aging, who wants to demand changes in the way global leaders consider demographics in their plans.

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