Is it better to be 60 than 50?

Written by Suzy Clemo

Almost a decade ago, RDSi conducted LSD to HRT a self-funded research project investigating the over 50s.  Since then, weve been through a global economic recession.  So its high time we revisited this fascinating group, seeing what it really means being 50 or over in 2016, updating our understanding and identifying opportunities for our clients.

The over 50s are a diverse, nuanced group.  A number of studies point to the fact that life in the 50s can be tough, with a low point of satisfaction with life at 50-54.  But by the time people get into their 60s, things start to get markedly better in terms of happiness. Let’s look a bit more closely at the journey from mid-life misery to senior happiness.

The 50-54 year olds are the ‘Sandwich Generation’ and the least happy with their lives not only amongst the over 50s but of all age groups.  They are caring for and supporting teenage children as well as elderly parents.  Women are going through the menopausal transition with debilitating effects such as fatigue and depression.  A taboo subject at work, they are often struggling to juggle heavy family commitments and careers.

55-60 year olds can feel isolated as their roles change.  This is often a time of loss – elderly parents passing away, as well as children leaving the nest – sometimes a trigger for divorce.  A generation of Silver Splitters are internet dating, dealing with STIs and finding love all over again.  With so much change, this time of life can be confusing and challenging, with many feeling misunderstood.

At 60-65, many are grappling with retirement.  But reducing hours rather than quitting is becoming more popular, allowing a more gradual transition.  And by the time they hit 66, life is looking up.  The 66-70 age group is the most socially connected with frequent visiting of friends and family.  And, perhaps surprisingly, life keeps getting better and better into the 70s and 80s.  The 71-74 year olds spend the most time volunteering and are most likely to describe themselves as ‘busy’, a key indicator of happiness.

This upward curve from middle age into old age is not just a peculiarity of the UK.  It is seen globally.  The age at which people are least happy can vary from one market to another, but the general trend is evident across cultures.  Perhaps, as we get older and closer to death, we become more skilled at living in the present, perhaps there is a sense of relief when we can embrace self-acceptance and let go of ambition and striving, perhaps people just get the hang of living after decades of practise.

So, what does all this mean for brands?

Our initial research suggests targeting the over 50s as a homogenous group is unwise.  Brands can extend and translate their appeal across age demographics. Some brands perform well, driving inclusivity for the over 50s, i.e. Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and The BBC.  Whilst tech brands – Apple, Samsung and YouTube, seem to be overlooking this demographic.  Studies indicate older consumers like to reward brands that meet their needs and these bonds of trust deepen over time.  By actively engaging and listening, brands can demonstrate a genuine understanding of the needs and aspirations of the over 50s to enhance competitive advantage.

As far as research is concerned, is it false economy to give greater importance to those under 50 in projects when older consumers represent so much value to our clients’ businesses?


We are just starting out in our investigation of the over 50s. If you’d like to get involved or have a question for us, don’t hesitate to get in touch!