Natural Foods Merchandiser

Aging Americans represent boom time

The war was over. Men came streaming home and birthrates began to rise. Between 77 million and 79 million babies were born in the United States during the years 1946 to 1964—a baby boom, if you will.

This year the oldest boomers are turning 60 and can expect to live to 83 on average, according to the 2004 Harvard School of Public Health report, "Reinventing Aging: Baby Boomers and Civic Engagement."

While boomers want to eat healthy (nine out of 10), and the same amount recognize that exercise promotes health, 27 percent are confused about how to eat, and the same percentage does not exercise at all, according to Harleysville, Pa.-based Natural Marketing Institute's Healthy Aging/Boomer Database. In fact, 31 percent feel "they are less healthy than they expected [to be] at their current age." The good news is that 68 percent opt to use vitamins and minerals to stay healthy. The bad news is that 75 percent "believe there is too much conflicting information about what supplements to take."

The authors of "Reinventing Aging" write, "Society may have too willingly embraced the [image] of the 'active senior'—indefatigable, healthy, usually wealthy and eternally young." However, they also write, "The generation that has challenged social conventions throughout earlier stages of life now stands poised to redefine life's later stages and possibly 'transform' the nation in the process."

To help transform this period into a boom time for natural products, The Natural Foods Merchandiser has dedicated a section of this issue to helping retailers understand, cater to, educate and profit from the nation's largest and most powerful demographic. In fact, Time magazine estimates that boomers control $750 billion in spending power and 50 percent of all discretionary income.

Articles on food and supplement choices to help with arthritis, vision, energy and skin health, and on what boomers need to enhance the shopping experience, such as reading glasses positioned to help them read labels, will help you settle on a holistic plan to refine the boomer customer experience.

As NMI found: "[Boomers] do not seek quick fixes, but prefer a balanced approach to looking and feeling better." Also, engaging the boomers could just mean cornering the market. "Two-thirds regularly [tell] family and friends when they learn something new about health and wellness."

That's 79 million people telling two friends, who tell two friends, who … well, you do the math. Good luck, and have fun helping boomers find the active seniors within themselves.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 3/p. 58

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