Overall, thirty-five percent of the U.S. population is at least 50 years old. That same demographic group controls 70% of all disposable income. In other words, older adults are a very important demographic for a wide range of industries and services. Businesses and educational institutions need to set out the welcome mat by including images of older adults on their websites.
Some industries appear to have made deliberate efforts to not only tell older adults they are valued but to show them they are valued through visual reinforcement. Though my approach was relatively informal, I looked at over 75 websites representing five different industries that have or will depend on a fair degree of older consumers. I selected websites representing veterinarian services, fitness centers, new car sales dealerships, wineries with tasting rooms, and community colleges.
I selected 10 websites from each of these industries that included images of people on their home pages. My purpose was to identify how many of these websites included images of older adults (including those with grey hair, etc.). My assumption was websites that included images of older adults communicated a recognition of our value and that we would be welcome in their places of business. For the first three industries, I limited my review to businesses or organizations in Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and San Francisco. I chose businesses based on those listed as ‘best’ or ‘top’ whenever possible. For community colleges and wineries, I looked at ones that were identified as ‘best’ or ‘top’ in Washington, Oregon, and California.
While 34% of Millennials reportedly own pets compared to 32% of Baby Boomers, guess who spends the most money on their pets? Comparing four different generations, Baby Boomers are responsible for 46.8% of the over 77 billion dollars spent on pets each year.
For those of us who are Boomers, our dogs or cats may eat, sleep, and travel with us. We also are more likely to find the money necessary for expensive procedures when needed.
Even though those of us 50+ are more likely to spend the most money on veterinary services, only three out of ten veterinary services websites that I visited included at least one image of an older adult when pictures of people were actually included. One of the three older adults I found was of a female veterinarian rather than an owner with their pet.
Because older adults are more aware than ever that physical activity is very important for a healthy, longer life, gym memberships could be an important part of our fitness plans. Further, some Medicare Supplemental or Advantage Plans will even play for fitness center memberships.
Yet when I looked at various gym or fitness center websites located in my three target cities, older people were rarely represented. Only three out of ten websites included at least one image of a grey-haired or older individual. Instead, images of buff, younger people dominated most of the sites I visited. Older people need to see that they will belong and would be welcomed at fitness centers and gyms.
New Car Dealerships
Reportedly, individuals 50+ are responsible for 62% of all new car purchases. Even though most car dealership websites I reviewed did not include images of people, I did finally locate ten that included humans pictured with shiny new cars. I found only two out of ten websites with images of people that included an older person.
It is no secret that a number of community colleges around the country have struggled financially. The pool of traditionally-aged students has decreased, while the number of older adults has increased. A growing number of community colleges are rethinking their programming and marketing strategies by developing programs that meet the needs of older adults. Because a growing number of older adults are embracing lifelong learning or reinventing themselves in some way, community colleges have a lot to offer.
Six out of ten community college homepages I reviewed included at least one older adult. Including images of older adults on community college websites is like setting out a welcome mat that communicates they also belong on campus.
Even though Millennials are consuming are spending a lot of money on wine, those who are 50+ are still the ones most likely to spend more money on a good bottle of wine in a tasting room.
When we purchase bottles of wine from a winery, most of us not only want quality wine, we want a quality experience—quality experiences could include anything from the atmosphere to wine-tasting education, interactions, and special events. I have yet to visit a tasting room that didn’t meet my expectations and then some. Eight out of ten winery websites I visited included at least one image of an older adult. Some include several pictures of grey-haired individuals participating in winery events.
Show Us You Want Our Business
For the next decade or two, those of us who are older will continue to have a lot of sway in the marketplace. To tap into this market, figure out how to provide the products and services we really want. Then show us that you want our business. A good place to start is on your website – put out that welcome mat and we’ll be more likely to show up for business.