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Platinum Foxes - the irresistible rise of global agelessness

With every year that passes, old age becomes less of a victimhood and more of an opportunity. This has the potential to radicalise brand-consumer relations in the most aged consumer societies and invites us to seriously review traditional conceptions of how to engage older consumers.

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Please click here for your complimentary trend download Vogue-alisation - Measuring the worldwide reach and role of an integrating fashion market’ from our website.

It is no new insight that old age is to become an increasingly mainstream consumer experience in the years ahead. As life expectancies continue to tick upwards and as fertility rates broadly do the opposite, the future trajectory is clear : by the end of the 20s decade, we can expect more than a quarter of populations inhabiting the G7’s developed countries to have reached retirement age.

It is easy to dwell on the purely economic implications of demographic change  -  and particularly at a time when many advanced economies struggle to cope with alpine deficits and the dizzying challenge of funding healthcare and public pensions.

However, there is more to the ageing story than the valid question of how to financially support greying populations.

At the Future Foundation, we contend that it is the dramatic transformation in people’s attitude and approach to their extended life that is the biggest story of demographic change. We are witnessing a gradual redefinition of what it means to grow old, with implications aplenty for consumer-facing brands  -  and particularly those in the most aged global societies. Once, a longer old age just seemed like a social and financial problem. But progressively this is a story filled with optimism and opportunity. After all, the emerging generation of over-60s will be, in most places, the richest third age in history.

And no longer, our analysis suggests, does entering middle-age naturally imply a sudden slowing down of activity or an abrupt loss of appetite for, say, cutting-edge technology (and related activities such as social networking), in-season fashion or a fulfilling sex life. Rather, lengthened life expectancy and compressed morbidity have become a rousing invitation for millions to continue the lifestyles they trialled in previous years and to retain a firm foothold in the traditionally youth-oriented worlds of fashion, work, family life and much else besides.

We find in our research that date of birth is no longer the significant predictor of consumer behaviour and attitude it once was. In so many areas of life the gap separating the youngest generations from those born previously is narrowing.

If we turn to our opinion research, we are struck by how accepting – encouraging even – society has become of older generations’ willingness to prolong youthful traits into later life. Take, for example, attitudes towards fashion and appearance. As our chart reveals, it is only a minority of respondents in the countries we present here that agree old people should refrain from wearing fashions designed for young people. And when we ask if it is right that people should make an effort to look their best "at any age", a strong majority of people in Germany, Spain, the UK and the USA agree. The pressure to look good simply no longer applies to the youngest generations alone.

Along the way, contemporary culture has become fertile ground for older role models – we think here of Sophia Loren, Clint Eastwood, Catherine Deneuve, Karl Lagerfeld, Sean Connery – collectively proving to millions of older consumers that one can remain self-confident, stylish, active and every bit as successful as younger counterparts well into one’s sixties and seventies. The human sell-by date stretches out into the distance.

Where is the physical and cultural attack on ageing leading us?

Societies where populations are growing old fastest (in particular, the developed markets of Western Europe, USA and Japan) will become increasingly ageless, in that attitudes will no longer be as age-fixated as we once might have expected. Increasingly so, consumers approaching the post-family third age will strive (with mounting societal approval) to extend youthful lifestyles and behaviours into later years. Will they appreciate branded efforts – in the form of age – inclusive marketing and product innovation – that ease the transition? On our analysis, undoubtedly so.

Please click here for your complimentary trend download Vogue-alisation - Measuring the worldwide reach and role of an integrating fashion market’ from our website.

About Future Foundation

The Future Foundation helps companies to make better decisions. Decisions which ultimately drive shareholder value.

We view the world through a consumer lens and enable our clients to plan the future with their customers at the epicentre.

Visit our website to find out more.

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