Seniors are Smart Buyers

English: Outdoor practice in Beijing's Temple ...
English: Outdoor practice in Beijing's Temple
of Heaven. Polski: ─ćwiczenia taijiquan
w Pekinie. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
By Alan Knight

Many have a very stereotypical view of seniors, especially when it comes to marketing.  The idea that they are doddering, out-of-touch, tight-fisted, grumpy, miserly, narrow-minded, and set-in-their-ways has been statistically proven false.  Seniors today are generally healthier, in touch, computer savvy, and very active.  They even carry cutting-edge, hand-held mobile devices. They take classes in Tai Chi or Tuscan cooking with other adults, half their age or younger.  They shop, read, socialize and travel.  Some even work part-time, often in new, challenging fields.  Countless seniors can do what they want, and because they have the time and money, they do just about everything younger adults do.

Joe Marconi, in his book, Future Marketing:  Targeting Seniors, Boomers, and Generations X and Y, writes:  “Many older folks strive to squeeze the most they can out of every moment of their lives.  They want to be active, independent, involved, busy, on the scene, online, traveling, dancing, experiencing and discovering all forms of entertainment.

Courtesy of
According to data compiled by the Administration of Aging, nearly half of all households headed by older Americans (65+) in 2001, had incomes of $35,000 or more.  And in 15.6 percent of senior households the number is above $75,000.  A generation ago, one in four people age 65 or older lived in poverty.  Today, it's fewer than one in ten.  Maddy Dychtwald, one of the nation's leading authorities on generational marketing, examines the tremendous reversal of fortune in her book, Cycles:   How We Will Live, Work, and Buy.  “During the past half century, this group has gone from being the poorest segment of society to being the richest through a combination of saving, investing, pension programs, and the windfall profits from rising home costs“, says Dychwald.  Eighty percent are homeowners, and three-quarters of them have paid off their mortgages.

How much do they spend?  On average senior households manage to spend a hefty $30,000 a year, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics 
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Bureau of Labor Statistics (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Consumer Expenditure survey.  “The seniors group has by far the greatest percentage of those who have achieved financial and professional success, and who can stop at a clothing or department store, cosmetics boutique or fine jewelry counter and buy without guilt and without compromising the family budget,” says Marconi.  And while the two-year slump in the stock market cut a deep swath in their investment income, it now seems that seniors curtailed their spending only marginally.

So, how do we define the term, “senior?”  When does a person reach that point?  The AARP, the nation's largest senior-advocacy group, starts their recruiting when people turn 50.  Government agencies define “older population” as starting at 55; others 65.  And because the first of the boomer generation is just now inching toward senior-hood, one market research firm divides the senior-line at age 57.

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Now, all that being said, according to leading marketing authorities, age doesn't matter.  The senior lifestyle, not the number of birthdays, defines them as consumers.  Dychtwald makes a salient point in writing, “Maybe you can call them seniors, but you can't assign them all to the same category...Age is no longer the ultimate definer of who we are, what we're doing, how we feel on the inside, what group we're a member of, or the products and services we demand from the marketplace.”

More and more seniors today are looking ahead to needs within the near and distant future.  Where does their money go? 

1.    Those with children and grandchildren are spending money on their families.  If financial resources are available they help to take care of family. Many grown children often have money problems of their own.  It may be the result of losing a job or the need for a down payment on a house.  The older generation learned early the need for saving and planning ahead. Seniors also enjoy doing things for their grand kids.   In the present time, they enjoy buying the latest toys, although they do prefer to buy something that will last.  In the long term, many grandparents are helping with planning ahead for the college of their grandchildren.  There are many savings plans available just for that.
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2.    Most seniors try to pay off all the debt they can.  That includes their mortgage.  Nothing brings more satisfaction than the accomplishment of paying off a house or a car, which represents the two greatest household expenses.
3.    Another area where money is well spent by our senior population is in taking care of immediate and long term health needs.  It may involve buying a long term health care policy.  It also involves planning ahead in making the home more comfortable and practical for the later years. One area is in making the bathroom more conducive for safety and independence.  More and more seniors are planning ahead for a day when mobility may be a real challenge, even getting around in their own home.  If they have done any reading at all they will discover that one in three seniors age 65 will take a fall every year.  By age 80 that percentage will grow to one in every two.  Many of these falls result in serious injury, with broken bones, and some are even fatal.  A large percentage of these falls take place in the bathroom.  As a result, many seniors are looking ahead.  Even though there may be no health concerns at present, they are looking ahead to a time when they may need to take every safety precaution.  They are installing bathrooms with wider doors (for walkers and wheelchairs), and placing grab bars on the wall where needed.  
Tub King Walk In tub

There are two special bath and shower designs that are very popular now with seniors:  The Walk in Tub has been around for a dozen years now and everyone has seen the advertisements.  This tub eliminates two things in particular:  1. The fear and possibility of falling; 2. The need for assistance in bathing.  The tub comes with a free standing soaking tub with a water-tight door, an ADA compliant seat, with all controls within easy grasp, and an interior grab bar for pulling up from the seat.  There is a handy hand-held shower and options can include air jet and water jet hydrotherapy along with an inline heater.  Younger seniors who plan wisely will include a Walk in Tub in their bathroom.  It can easily replace the existing tub that is there and the installation can be done in one to two days. 

Another bath innovation that is really catching on is the Walk in Shower Suite. This allows the wheelchair-dependent senior to enter a shower through the design of a zero threshold opening.  What makes it work well is the fact that it is not a shower “enclosure.”  In fact, it is not enclosed at all.  It is a beautiful designed addition to the bath and provides all the safety accessories that anyone would require.  There is a seat for those who need one and hand-held showers, but the highlight of this design is the beautifully decorated walls of the shower.  It comes in a number of sizes to fit any bathroom.  Nothing satisfies a senior more than to be able to bathe independently and safely.
According to census projections, one in six Americans (56.2 million people) will be older than 65 by 2020.  By 2030, that population will balloon to about 70 million.  This will change the world of marketing.  More companies will be looking at what seniors are buying, and they will try to anticipate what they might buy in the future.  It's time to look ahead whether you are the buyer or the seller.  Our world is changing.

In this article, I talked about what is considered being a senior today. I highlighted many of the changes that have taken place and shows how and what seniors are spending their money on. Grand children and improving their safety are top issues. Seniors are buying walk-in tubs and a new innovation called Safety Suite Showers to deal with the safety issues.

Check out this short video about our Walk-in Tub Buyers guide.

If you’d like to receive a FREE Walk-In Tub Buyers’ Guide, click here.  Or, if you’d like to receive a FREE Clawfoot Tub Buyers’ Guide, click here. 

If you have a comment, please type it in the Comment section below.  Of course, I encourage you to share this article with your family, friends, and colleagues. 

Have a question?  Feel free to contact me at the number or email listed below and I’ll personally get back to you.  Thanks for reading; it’s been my pleasure to share this information with you.

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Alan Knight (now retired) is the former co-owner of Tub King, Inc., and  in Jacksonville, Florida. He had many years of experience in the antique and senior bathtub industries. These companies not only provide superior products, they are also multi-award winners, receiving the “Best of Jacksonville Chamber Award” four years running. To contact Tub King directly, call (800)843-4231 or email
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