Marketing – 51 is Not the Same as 91

The senior market has been described in a variety of ways. But what I find to be the most troubling is that too many businesses marketing to the senior population must assume that over the age of 50 thinks the same way, acts the same way and more importantly responds to advertising in exactly the same way.

We’re Not the Same

In today’s rapidly growing and diverse mature market it’s becoming increasingly important to target advertising messages to specific market segments.

Demographically this “group” is referred to in a variety of ways. “Baby Boomers” or “50+” or heaven forbid “Senior Citizens”. I turned 51 this year, technically you could group myself, my mother (who is in her 70’s) and my grandmother (92 and going strong) into 2 of those 3 categories. With that broad categorization idea in mind, you might as well lump myself and my daughter (who is in her 20’s) into the same category.

No one in marketing would attempt to appeal to a 20 year and a 50 year with the same marketing medium or message. There are too many differences between them, lifestyles and habits—and thus media usage—vary significantly by age, income, gender and other demographic factors. So why should the over 50 market not be treated similarly?

One of the biggest untapped segments of the potential hearing aid market are individuals between the ages of 50 -59. Estimates about the size of that market vary from 18% to 30% but even if the lower estimate is accurate experience would tell us that 18% of those age 50 – 59 are not lining up to get hearing aids. To have a better chance at selling to this market, start by understanding them a little bit better.

The 50 – 59 Market

First, the bad news,

A recent study from AARP reported the following:

“We are accustomed to believe that older adults 60-plus are the most vulnerable group of aging adults in our society. In reality, however, 50-59 year olds are emerging as the new face of vulnerability. In the midst of this slow economic recovery, this cohort faces age-specific pressures and has limited safety net programs to which they can turn for assistance.

They have been plagued by high unemployment, are generally too young for Social Security and Medicare, and fail to qualify for programs designed for households with children. In addition, health concerns are more prominent and re-employment is more difficult for this age group than their young counterparts.1 Upon reemployment the median monthly earnings for workers 50-61 declined 23%, compared with 11% for workers age 25- 34.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 50-59 cohort accounts for almost 15% of unemployed persons, similar to their share of the overall population, but suffers durations of unemployment longer than their younger counterparts.3 The average duration of unemployment for 50-59 year olds was around 53 weeks [45-54 years, 52 weeks, and 55-64 years, 53.5 weeks] in October 2012. At the same time, the average duration for younger people age 25-34 was 38 weeks.”

The other side of the coin

Approximately 66% of people ages 50 – 59 are employed and typically are in their peak earning years. Their financial burden is lessened by a decrease in the cost of child care and the reduction of larger financial burdens, for example the elimination of their primary mortgage payment. This leaves this age group with a significant amount of spending power.

Wealth of Baby Boomers (ages 50 – 59 are in this group)

The 55+ age group controls more than three-fourths of America’s wealth (ICSC).
78 million Americans who were 50 or older as of 2001 controlled 67% of the country’s wealth, or $28 trillion (U.S. Census and Federal Reserve).
Boomers and seniors have seen a decrease in their median family net worth, however they still have a net worth 3x that younger generations (Economic Policy Institute).
Boomers’ median household income is 55% greater than post-Boomers and 61% more than pre-Boomers. They have an average annual disposable income of $24,000 (US Government Consumer Expenditure Survey).
The 50+ have $2.4 trillion in annual income, which accounts for 42% of all after-tax income (U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey).
Adults 50 and older own 65% of the aggregate net worth of all U.S. households (U.S. Consumer Expenditure Survey).
In the next ten years, U.S. baby boomers will increase their annual spending on wellness-based services from approximately $200M to $1 trillion.

In other words the number of people who need, want and can afford hearing healthcare services is growing. But there is a smaller segment who also need and want your services but price will be the driving factor in the decision making process.

Media Usage by Age

Print Media

Newspaper readership varies significantly by both age and income. Whereas more than 70% of 75- to 79-yearolds report reading the newspaper every day, only 40.4% of 55- to 59-year-olds do. Similarly, 67% of respondents with incomes greater than $100,000 report reading the newspaper every day, compared to only 41.6% of those with incomes less than $25,000. Not only are older and more affluent respondents more likely to read the paper each day, they also spend significantly more time each day with the paper.

News sections (local, national, international) are the most widely read, followed by business, TV listings and sports. Not surprisingly for this generation, men are significantly more likely to read the business and sports sections, while women are significantly more likely to read lifestyle sections. The most widely read magazines were AARP Magazine (56.7%), Reader’s Digest (24.9%), Better Homes and Gardens (17.9%) and Good Housekeeping (17.6%). While readership of most magazines was consistent by age group, a few magazines did have significantly different readership by age.


“Prime time” is still prime time for the mature market, with the traditional broadcast networks capturing the most viewers. 68% of respondents report watching more TV during the 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. time segment than any other. There are significant differences in TV preferences by gender, age and income. The following are the top 3 most channels for ages 55 -59

TNT 42.6%
Lifetime 41.1%
A&E 37.1%
News programs are the most effective way to reach all seniors, with nearly 80% reporting that they watch both the local and national news.


The mature market listens to radio the most in the early morning, with 37.4% of respondents reporting that they listen the most during the 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. time period. The second most listened to time period is early afternoon, with 20.9% listening from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. These patterns are the same across all age groups.

More than half of respondents listen to the radio the most while in their car (53.6%), while 37.3% listen the most at home. Older respondents are more likely to not listen to the radio at all.

As with other media, radio format preferences also vary with age. For example, the top three format preferences for the 55-59 age group are oldies, classic rock and country.


The survey found that internet usage actually increases with age with 43% 50-59 year olds spending 11-30 hours per week online, compared with 39% of 30-49 year olds.

This group is online and they aren’t just checking the weather.

60% browse online at least once a day to once a week
11% buy something online at least once a day to once a week
30% engage in a practice know “reverse showrooming” researching online before completing a purchase in-store.

What is Changing the Most?

What’s changing more than anything else is access to information. Younger generations were the first to utilize the power of the internet to research a product before making a purchase. Older generations soon followed suit.

To put it simply the age 50 – 59 market is able to research a hearing aid purchase in a way that they never could before. You aren’t just competing against the handful of people in your local community, you’re competing against everyone. It’s time to better define your demographic and better understand how to present marketing to them in a way that will make them want buy what you’re selling.

Niche Marketing

What exactly does niche marketing mean?

According to Wikipedia (as good a source as any for a definition).

“A niche market is the subset of the market on which a specific product is focusing. So the market niche defines the specific product features aimed at satisfying specific market needs, as well as the price range, production quality and the demographics that it is intended to impact. It is also a small market segment.”

Niches do not exist but are created by identifying needs, wants, and requirements that are being addressed poorly or not at all by other firms, and developing and delivering goods or services to satisfy them. As a strategy, niche marketing is aimed at being a big fish in a small pond instead of being a small fish in a big pond.

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Why Should You Create a Niche?

You don’t have the time or the resources to be everything to everyone. For the majority of people reading this article, your revenue is generated from the sale of hearing aids.  However within that fairly narrow field it is possible to figure out what appeals to the demographic you serve in your immediate area and give it to them.

If you’re in an area that values customer service (and is wiling to pay for it) above all else, then provide great customer service.  Services like on demand appointments, high-end waiting room furniture, a Keurig in the waiting room…in other words, pamper the would be customer.  If you’re in an extremely budget conscious area then price your products and structure your practice accordingly.

Choose a niche, don’t waste your time and your money trying to attract every hearing impaired patient to your office.  It’s impossible to be all things to all people so stop trying.