Tapping into the senior

Economy May 02, 2014 00:00

By Vittakarn Chandavimol

3,103 Viewed

The rate of Thailand's ageing population is rising faster than the country's birth rate.

Many people now continue working well after the age of 60 and extend their careers through to their 70s – usually in an advisory capacity – yet most products, marketing and advertising materials have not been adjusted to attract this population segment, which has relatively high purchasing power. 
Freed from the burden of raising their family, they seek products and services that communicate directly to their personal needs.
Although the elderly do not use products that are significantly different from those purchased by people in their prime working years, the physical limitations of the elderly impose additional requirements that determine which products they choose and use. 
For instance, attracting older consumers can be as simple as using larger, easier-to-read fonts on product labels, and indicating the product’s attributes in detail. Many people may have heard of the low-cost mobile handset nicknamed the amah (“grandmother”), which features large numbers on its display and has sold particularly well among the elderly.  
Besides addressing limitations related to their eyesight, the muscles and bones of this age group generally function less efficiently than for other segments of the population. That is why paying attention to the way residences and even supermarkets are designed to address their physical constraints will win their custom. 
To make it easier for the elderly to walk around, attention should be paid to areas such as the gradients of walkways and reducing multi-level spaces on the same floor. It is also a good idea to incorporate more sturdy handrails at appropriate heights where they are needed. 
In places that require the elderly to walk considerable distances, designated places to sit and rest should be created at regular intervals. These spaces can even be transformed into a business opportunity with a cafe or bakery. 
Paying attention to these small details will allow businesses to sell considerably more just by investing a little more in the production process.
One factor which distinguishes the elderly today from previous generations is their receptiveness to new products and ideas. This can be seen in their ability to use technology in the form of smartphones and applications in various media. 
This widespread access allows them to pick up news from more sources than ever before, and makes them open to direct communications from marketers whose products meet their needs.
Moreover, as these senior citizens are living in an era where people fight all signs of ageing through various means, this translates to their ongoing effort to take good care of themselves so that they remain strong and healthy. 
This accounts for the popularity of products taken to prolong their youthfulness. Even fashion-related products can meet needs. 
The growing presence of more elderly models and product presenters in the mass media reflects the growing acceptance and ability of many businesses to meet the needs of this consumer group.
Increased independence
Another trend is the increasing independence of our elderly members of society. It may well be due to their own satisfaction in being independent, or it could be a result of necessity as their younger family members are too busy working to make a living or too preoccupied with their own families to tend to their elderly family members. 
That is why businesses that can offer convenient products and services enabling them to lead comfortable lives independent of their offspring and younger relatives will do exceedingly well. Even simply designing urban condominiums that accommodate wheelchairs and employ tight-security elevator systems completely addresses the basic needs and concerns of the elderly who no longer can live in two-storey detached houses, since accessing stairs to master bedrooms on upper floors is a problem and they often suffer from insomnia and related health problems induced by constant worry over low security.
Understanding the behaviour, lifestyles and physical constraints of the elderly is about noticing minor details which, when addressed, can effectively improve the quality of their lives, and distinguish the products and services that cater to their needs from those that do not.
As the ageing society is a demographic fact in Thailand and many other countries around the world, we should look for details that allow us to capture this niche market and seize the opportunities for our success.