Like the martini-swilling holiday party, it looks like the huge end-of-year retirement celebrations may be another tradition living exclusively in “Mad Men” episodes. The mass backslapping of technicians through management heading off to the golf course or grandkids now conjures pure nostalgia.
Blame it on bottom-dwelling 401Ks, prolonged life expectancy or a less physically taxing work environment (or, all the above), but the number of Americans older than 65 in the labor force increased 16 percent between 2007 and 2010. And before you claim this is a short-term quirk of the economy, consider that according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 65+ working crowd already jumped 101 percent between 1977 and 2007. Another trend red flag is that while previously those 65+ numbers included a lot of part-time employment, more and more now put in minimum 40-hour workweeks.
This movement creates a new sub-demographic within an age group, but also creates a new market within the workforce itself. How will the aging workers address healthcare, lifestyle or even simple leisure decisions while still on the job? Yes, there will be a longer period without a “fixed” income, but it’s coupled with a stretched out “savings period” — especially with many Baby Boomers trying to recover from the past few years. Many of these workers are single females. And, nearly 450,000 Americans 65 and older are actively looking for employment.
Marketing to the 65+ demographic isn’t new (and yes, as I age, I suddenly realize 65 is not simply the target for Life Alert and Snuggies). According to Marc Freedman, author of the new book “The Big Shift: Navigating the New Stage Beyond Midlife,” the retirement concept many of us grew up with was largely a product of the post–World War II and Baby Boom labor shifts escorting older workers out of the market. The decades-long retirement became a big marketing opportunity in the lifestyle and service categories. We’re obviously talking to a different group than the 1930s farmer working until he dropped, but this new twist on aging poses some interesting opportunities in a new set of categories, including …
• Home-office design
• Travel and hospitality
So, let us pause briefly to mourn the engraved years-of-service watch. Today, those 65+ have other needs on their minds.