Seniors Squarely in the Sights of the Insurance Industry … and Just About Everybody Else

Putting the Senior Market under a Microscope

microscope asks: “Why is it marketers split the youth market into dozens of segments, yet turn around and treat millions of mature consumers as one?”

Good question. After all, anyone can figure out that a healthy 65-year-old and an ailing 90-year-old aren’t likely to have a lot in common as consumers. Considering that the senior market has expanded in recent years to include many consumers only approaching their senior years, cautions, “There is a big distinction between marketing to what are termed ‘leading-edge’ or ‘first wave’ baby boomers in their 50s and 60s, and marketing to seniors. For example, leading-edge boomers are seeking financial independence, whereas seniors are more interested in physical independence. Failure to distinguish the difference is a death knell for any brand hoping to secure credibility with either group.”

Nowhere is this truer than in the health insurance industry. Considering that most of those “leading-edge” boomers are in good health and are still covered by employer health plans, successfully targeting older consumers under 65 is vastly different from targeting people 65 and over who are eligible for Medicare and are candidates to purchase insurance products designed primarily to supplement their Medicare coverage. cautions: “This is not one big homogeneous group that ranges in age from 55 to 95. Consider defining your market by education, cultural values, employment, and health status.” Age alone cannot determine how receptive an older consumer is likely to be to a product because “the needs of a healthy, active, and employed 65-year-old will differ sharply from a retiree of the same age with poor health.”

Even so, the insurance industry sometimes appears to take a one-size-fits-all approach to targeting the senior market. Budget considerations probably make this necessary in some cases, and besides, despite all the disparity within the lucrative and growing senior market, there clearly are characteristics currently common to most American seniors.

I’ve been observing this “market” and its trends for some time now, and I’ve noted:

Seniors are concerned about matters of health

Men over 65 are concerned about prostate cancer and heart disease. Women are concerned about breast cancer and other conditions they are particularly susceptible to. Many seniors react emotionally when topics such as these are brought up. Even so, trying to play upon fears in order to sell a product is more likely to bring failure than success. As we’ve already discussed, the reason is simple: Seniors have been around long enough to know when they’re being manipulated, and most will run the other way if they don’t feel they can trust a product or company.

Seniors are passionate—one way or the other—about the Affordable Care Act

I’ve just reread some of the comments our Facebook friends offered up in response to a post from a few months back on the ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare. It appears some seniors haven’t been this fired up since Vietnam. A lot of seniors are looking at the complexities of the ACA, analyzing how changes are likely to affect them and the country as a whole. It makes for a refreshing debate, and it looks as if the two sides in the debate are very evenly matched.

Seniors are even more passionate about their grandchildren

This is one thing that hasn’t changed over the years. While seniors today are living in a manner vastly different from how people their age lived in previous generations, feelings about grandchildren haven’t changed much at all. One thing that is different regarding seniors and grandchildren, though, is that a growing number of grandparents are primary (or almost primary) caregivers to their grandchildren—essentially finding themselves in the role of parents once again. …  Seniors love baby pictures. And, while you probably aren’t surprised that seniors account for the majority of healthcare spending and both prescription and over-the-counter drug purchases in the country, you may be surprised to learn that, according to CSA, seniors also purchase 25% of all toys sold in the US.

Seniors still like to live it up

They still love to eat chocolate. They love to travel. Most love to eat out … socialize … and many if not most are still eager to try new things.

Among those new things are the technological innovations sweeping the country in recent years. Far from the common perception, the “senior market” doesn’t shy away from change, and is not more at home in the Stone Age than the digital age. The fact is, internet use is already high and ever-rising among seniors across the country. According to, the US Census Bureau reports “people over the age of 65 spend more than $7 billion per year online.” Seniors today are savvy at using computer technology for all the purposes associated with other demographic groups—including reading online reviews and investigating the many products and services being targeted to them.

It almost goes without saying, then, that the health insurance industry—or any other industry interested in targeting the older demographic—needs to be just as savvy in understanding its market.

Contact MedicareMall to learn about Medicare supplement plans and all your best healthcare options.

What do you see as the most important characteristic of the “senior market”?

Seniors Squarely in the Sights of the Insurance Industry … and Just About Everybody Else© 2013

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