Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Inspiring Innovations for Those Over 50

An FEI Session: Inspiring Innovations for Those Over 50
Kathy Sheean, EVP/Global Managing Director, Consumer Life, Gfk
Andreina Rangel, Sr. Strategic Advisor, AARP
Marla Hetzel, Director of Innovation, AARP

This segment focuses on innovation inspirations for the over 50+ consumer. Only three people in the audience were familiar with AARP, according to a show of hands.

The origin of AARP was an innovation to meet needs for retired professionals. Dr. Andrews, the founder, encountered a retired teacher living in a chicken coup, and decided to help. So she found an insurance company willing to insure this uninsured population. The organization was born out of consumer need.

The goal now is to disrupt aging. Today 85% of consumers saying having good health is still important. Financial security is now equal to health. Things like marriage are on the decline in its ranking, mirroring changes in culture.

When we asked consumers over 50 about innovation, we heard such things as
1.    A less expensive way of doing something
2.    Something that improves your well-being or health
3.    Something that makes you feel safer or more secure

These areas are both pain points and opportunities.

Anticipatory Health was the first category: Over 50+ are open to embracing more holistic and preventative model of healthcare. Gaps still exist—and there exist the opportunities. Sleep is an emerging gap in this space, as is hydration. Minimizing stress and avoiding processed foods are also key areas.

Wearable and sensors can help track fitness. Right now, less than 10% in this segment are using wearables—and it is an area poised for growth. Having monitors that provide actionable feedback will be key to consumer adoption.

One of the most common health conditions in the U.S. is pre-diabetes. 50+ consumers are increasingly focused on treatment and prevention. One of the AARP innovation teams developed a program called Play More, designed for over 50 African-American women. Each woman made a personal promise to her friends. This promise was back up by mobile tips and nudges to keep their promise top of mind. SWAG, recipes, support groups all play a role in the program.

Another area is stress management. 34.2 million Americans over 50 are now caregivers. The stress of caregiving and living their own lives is taking its toll. Those who report high rates of stress during caregiving typically die within four years of when the person for whom they cared passed away.

Stress levels in the United Stress is at all-time high. Insights are helping to generate products to help meet the rising needs. AARP is locating relation drinks and both a morning and evening toothpaste with desired attributes that help you wake up or promote restfulness to support this growing trend.

Income inequality is the last area touched upon. This income polarization is acute in the 50+ set. Their particular position colors attitudes, health choices, and stress levels. Only ½ of late boomers and Gen X are on track to replace even 50% of their income upon retirement. Growing old, now, is seen as a luxury of affluence.

How does innovation play a role in income inequality? By taking strategies for lower-incoming and emerging countries and transferring them to the over 50+ set in developed countries, needs are beginning to be met, but there is more to be explored.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.

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