Boomers are not new phenomena – they are the population born between 1946-1964 that are responsible for half of all discretionary spending in the United States. What is new is that they will dominate the world population by the year 2050 and on average these boomers can be expected to live to the age of 83 – longer than any previous generation [source: Harvard School of Public Health].
They will not only live longer, but they will lead more active, healthy lives, more independently and on their terms. They are single handedly defining the trends of a “new’ boomer generation and for generations to follow. And, there will be far-reaching implications on every industry, particularly health and wellness sectors who will have to adapt to their changing lifestyle needs, and quickly – as there is, and will continue to be a significant shift in delivery of health care.
So how can health and wellness sectors keep pace? By rethinking the way they interact and deliver solutions to Boomers. Most importantly, understanding that Boomers do not subscribe to a single type of lifestyle, and tend to pick and choose what makes sense for them based on their individual experiences and needs. They are information seekers who love to self-advocate for their health and are open to alternative options of care. They are a society-changing generation like no other and what is required to deliver on their needs matters more than we realize.
What influences Boomers health and lifestyle decisions, and what practices are being adopted to address them?
Demand will continue to grow for care of chronic health conditions, e.g. diabetes, cardiovascular, and joint disease to name a few, with about 60% of boomers experiencing more than one chronic condition by the year 2030 [source: American Hospital Association]. Healthcare providers and government agencies are acting, working on preventative measures to improve the future health of this generation and those to come –cultivating a more-informed, health-conscious society that could help turn back the tide.
- Digital accessibility to health information has become a key component. With over 78% of Boomers online and their desire to adopt “what’s new and better,” great progress is being made in patient-managed technology including, Government-sponsored web sites; electronic health records, which ease tracking/sharing patient information for doctors; mobile health apps (mHealth) for improved efficiencies of health systems to consumer health management; online health forums; and progressive platforms such as Patients Like Me that are shifting the paradigm with a network that provides an effective way to share real-world health experiences between patients and health providers. One of the early adopters of this platform is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
This generation will continue to focus on longevity and delaying the physical effects of aging. With three out of four boomers doing what’s needed to lower their health risks and prevent disease, this generation has propelled the fitness movement and mainstreaming of holistic approaches to care. Compared to older generations, fitness and exercise are more culturally ingrained in their minds, and daily routines – it’s a way of life for them and they have motivation. One study showed that active people enjoyed 16 more years of healthy living than did inactive people [source: AARP] – some motivating statistics.
- The prescription for wellness now comes in many forms. Outside of the digital accessibility discussed earlier, there are more conventional ways in which boomers are finding health and wellness solutions. There’s doctors offices where they can now experience an annual “wellness visit” and have a personalized prevention plan developed to stay healthy – evaluation is from a lifestyle (not medicinal) perspective, e.g. dietary habits, exercise, sleep and other daily routines. And, local drugstores like Walgreens, that are making navigating solutions to health much easier with “store within a store” layouts –where condition based products, such as diabetes management and heart health, are grouped together and labeled with shelf tags. But let’s also not forget that wellness goes beyond physical well-being for this generation. It’s also about one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual health (mind-body-spirit), which has created a steady increase in the popularity of yoga, Pilates, tai chi, and other body-mind fitness disciplines proven to have physical and mental benefits.
The Future Is Diversity
Boomers are not a homogeneous group, and one-size-fits-all solutions will not prevail. Their movement toward self-care to enjoy a satisfying, fulfilling life, coupled with research based evidence on healthy living, is stimulating demand for practical, long-term solutions. The brands that truly take the time to understand the forces that are changing and moving these consumers will succeed. Follow them on their path, become part of their lifestyle, speak to them in their language, and you will join them on their journey.