By Bárbara Rey Actis, Longevity Initiatives.
I think this article is one of the most relevant that I have written so far because it encourages us to make a radical change in the way we approach the market.
If a company wants to develop products and services for the elderly, it must turn its eye toward those who hold the keys to the economy of current and future longevity: Mature women.
They must be given an active role in the company and for the company, and be part of the whole creative-productive process:
- Processes for identifying needs
- Development of concepts
- Testing of prototypes
- Deciding sales channels
- Selection of marketing tools
- Adjustment of communication channels
- Definition of after-sales services. etc.
If you have read this far, you must be wondering: Why target mature women if I want to sell products and services to the elderly? I will give you the answer below.
Let me first go over some data that I shared in previous articles:
- There are more women than men in Spain.
- Their average life expectancy is almost 7 years longer than men’s.
- Women live longer than men, but perceive their overall health to be worse
- Either voluntarily or obligatorily, women assume the greatest responsibility in relation to the care of children or the elderly and many of them fall into the so-called “sandwich generation”.
- We also know that there are far more women than men living alone in the last years of their lives.
- Older people are getting closer and closer to technology and are using not only basic means such as Internet access, but also more sophisticated applications and tools such as social networks, devices, etc.
- Equally important is the incorporation of women into the labor market, where we see the gap between men and women narrowing ever further (1).
Other relevant facts to consider:
- Women are purchasing decision-makers, influencers and/or payers. Putting it in figures, women influence, globally, 64% of purchasing decisions. (2)
Therefore, they play a highly active role in the economy.
- The perception that women have about retirement is quite different from that of men. In different studies carried out, men show more a leisure vision, of relax and enjoyment, while women are more concerned about economic aspects, health, difficulties to face
- Finally, if we want to develop products and services for the elderly, we must consider not only those who are older today, but those who will soon be: The baby boomers. They know very well the needs of the elderly because they take care of them and they know very well what they want for their own future.
Based on several studies conducted at MIT’s AgeLab (2), we can identify four large blocks of interrelated needs:
- Combating loneliness
- Improving perception of health
- Care support
- Adapted technology
The main reason identified why the solutions proposed by companies have so far failed to fully meet these needs is because most companies are run and led by young men, especially technology companies. (2) Mature women have not been involved either as potential consumers or as senior talent. (*)
I will next develop each need with examples of products that could meet them and the driver to consider when contemplating solutions.
- Combating loneliness:
Main Driver: CONNECTING
Loneliness is the archenemy of health in old age.
From the age of 50, compared to men, the number of women who are alone begins to increase. But this loneliness does not just mean exclusively the need to have a romantic relationship. Above all, women are a little “scared” of the idea of having to become caregivers for a new partner.
The need to combat loneliness is mainly on a social level, to share simple things such as talking, watching TV, attending a show, traveling, etc.
Related products: Dating app for the elderly, travel agencies for single adults, rental of tourist apartments by and for seniors, participatory artistic events, meeting places for single women with similar interests, simple video calling systems, promotion of intergenerational relations (students living with female seniors), etc.
- Improving perception of health:
Main Driver: PERSONALIZING
Older women are the heavy users of the National Health System. They have at least one (and an average of three) chronic diseases that need treatments requiring a good level of adherence.
We know that 75% of people who walk in a pharmacy are women with an average age of 45.
But it is in the field of health care where there is probably the greatest discrimination based on sex. For example: artificial hearts are designed to fit 80% of men, but only 20% of women
Related products: Health insurance, applications that monitor health status, parapharmaceutical products, systems to improve adherence to treatments.
- Care support:
Main Driver: ACCOMPANYING:
From the age of 40, most women take on a caring role with at least one older person (their own family or their husband’s family), in addition to their children.
Studies tell us that the kind of care provided by women is much more intimate than that provided by men. To give an example: women provide more personal tasks such as dressing, bathing, healing, while men clean, fix, order. (2)
Due to this increased involvement in caregiving and the deep knowledge they have, it is women who make purchasing decisions, not only for them, but for several generations (children, partners, parents, grandparents…)
But on the other hand, we also know that baby boomers will much appreciate their independence, so it is important to develop products and services that allow them to maintain their autonomy.
Related products: collaborative economy for the elderly with home delivery services, transportation, home repairs, cleaning, security systems, administrative tasks, medicine home delivery, emergency system, etc. In short: products that solve the problems of the elderly rather than treating the elderly as a problem.
- Availability of adapted technologies:
Main Driver: ADAPTING
Another way to illustrate the lack of knowledge about needs has been the rise of what was called “the tyranny of pink” when developing products for women. Some examples are Dell’s pink laptops, the e-Pad Femme with pre-installed cooking and yoga applications. Dodge produced a car called La Femme with a compartment for lipstick and purse. Pink, of course. Honda did not stay behind and made its own version, the Honda She’s Fit, also in pink, with features such as an A/C system which apparently helps skin quality and a windshield with special UV-blocking coating to protect “women’s delicate skin”. (2)
All these examples were absolute failures, why? Because they were designed by men!
Finally, and to avoid dwelling too long, we know that many older people use products in different ways than expected. As products are not adapted to them, they adapt the products.
It is necessary to identify lead users (2), those who identify the needs before the rest and have technological knowledge that allows them to outline the solution. It is a way of democratizing innovation by involving consumers, especially mature women.
Related products: Technology that facilitates connection, participation in society, independence, conducting professional activity (if more and more seniors continue to develop projects after retirement),
If we really want to start developing products and services for the elderly to help them have a full old age, it is necessary to already incorporate mature women, the Baby Boomers, as true agents of innovation and change, not only as lead users, but as senior talent within the structures of companies.
- Employment rate by age and sex Spain 2019 – INE
- Coughlin, Joseph F., The longevity economy, Public Affairs Public Affairs.
*If anyone is interested in statistical data on the presence of women in different industries, I can provide it.