The Future of Generations: Myth 4

How many times have we seen adverts surrounding Christmas about old people being isolated or needed help because they are cold and unhappy? A lot. And this brings us to our fourth myth surrounding the perceptions of the different generations, saying that older generations are lonely and isolated.

myth-4As one of our focus groups respondents said:

“A lot of old people are isolated. Their family is not as close to them as it used to be, they are more scared too”

Christina, 44

Well this couldn’t be more untrue for a large proportion of older people.  While we should recognise that there are older people that are vulnerable and need extra support who probably won’t appear in a market research sample, we found lots of evidence of the rich and rewarding lives many of the older generations lead.

When looking at the mean happiness level by age, it seems that the 65+ are the happiest of all generations with 57% of them rating their happiness between 8 and 10 on a ten point scale (vs 42% for the total population).


Source:  OMD UK The Future of Generations

Question F.6:  How happy are you with life?

Base:  All respondents (3,028).

This level of happiness doesn’t decrease with age. When we look at more granular age groups, we see that those aged over 71 show a similarly high level of happiness, with 57% rating their happiness at over 8 out of 10.

This is something we saw in our focus groups and online community, as our older participants talked about how relaxed they were at this stage of life and how they could look at what they had achieved. Not only do they feel relaxed and happy but they also feel much younger than their age as over 9 in 10 of those over 60 feel younger than their years.

“I feel much younger now than in the last 20 years! “

Sandra, 67

Often, those over 60 are defined by marketers as grandparents before anything else. They are also considered as isolated without their family.  While we found that 83% of those in our sample had grandchildren, almost three-quarters of those that we surveyed aged over 65 socialise with their friends more than once a week, whereas only 29% see their grandchildren each week. This suggests a much richer life than we sometimes assume, where friends and socialising are a more regular part of lives than grandchildren – a far cry from the view of isolation and loneliness that was often cited in our groups.

And despite perceptions seeing the older generation as technophobes, their socialisation doesn’t stay offline; 51% of our over 65s are communicating with friends and family online on a weekly basis.

It is, however, true that they are not the first to adopt new technologies, for example, only 6% use WhatsApp compared to 50% of 15-24s (Source: TGI), we should not write them off completely.

TGI also tells us that 7 in 10 of over 65s have the internet at home and over half of over 65s own a smartphone, with a similar proportion owning a tablet.  Again, while these levels are below the national average, it is still true that the majority of over 65s are part of the connected world.

So we couldn’t be more wrong when we perceive older generations as unhappy, lonely and technophobic as they are happy, socialising and adopting new technologies. The Future of Generations study has shown us the importance of ensuring that we are vigilant in reminding ourselves not to pre-judge this large and valuable section of society.

With 65+ being the fastest growing group in British society and the increase of life expectancy, it is key for marketers to understand this audience that we can’t afford to ignore or underestimate.


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