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Older generation influencers: why you should be talking to them in this cost-of-living crisis

The timing of this cost-of-living crisis makes it unique. We have experienced financial crises before, but none that have come off the back of a global pandemic. Through this blog series we’ll explore how this unique combination of circumstances is affecting consumers, what post-pandemic behaviours and trends are surviving the cost-of-living crisis, and the implications for brands.

We don’t live in a culture that venerates older people. In fact, quite the opposite: our cultural discourse often portrays older people as a burden, dependent on the state, and frail. The Centre for Ageing Better found that the top 10 words used about ageing and older people across society included ‘help’, ‘care’, ‘support’, ‘dementia’ and ‘NHS’.

The Covid-19 pandemic reinforced the perception that older people are weak. We all heard the message loud and clear: the older you are, the higher risk of serious illness. The advice was to continuing isolating for longer. The pandemic created an overwhelming image of vulnerability among this cohort.

However, as we navigate this cost-of-living crisis, our conversations with customers are painting a contrasting picture. We’re hearing and seeing that older generations are playing both a practical role and an influencer role as they help people around them manage the growing financial pressures.

The rising costs of childcare means many parents are turning to wider family for support, and we’re seeing grandparents take on the role. We recently spoke to Jill* who has sacrificed her retirement dream to support her daughter with childcare. For much of their working life, Jill and her husband had dreamed of moving to New Zealand for their retirement and a few years ago they made that dream happen. But the rising cost of living meant her daughter could no longer afford childcare so Jill made the emotional decision to return to the UK to take on the childcare role and support her family.

This rise in the prevalence of ‘grannannying’ as Age UK defines it, means that grandparents are playing a pivotal role in family life and will naturally be influencing decision making and purchase behaviours.

Given the context of the cost-of-living crisis, we’re seeing the impact of this older generation’s influence most strongly in sectors like finance and insurance. Many younger people who haven’t been through an economic crisis are seeking advice from those older family members with experience. In a Customer Closeness session on the cost of living we spoke to Paul* who had recently purchased home cover for his heating, electrics, and appliances specifically on the recommendation and encouragement of his parents.

We believe brands are missing an opportunity to hear from this generation. The age brackets companies are interested in for recruitment for consumer research are often capped at 60yrs, and almost never go beyond 70yrs. Brands are assuming that older consumers are less interesting, less relevant and are of lower value.

How much do you know about the role older people are playing in the behaviours and decisions of your customers, particularly as they navigate the current financial uncertainty? We believe the older generation is a powerful, but currently unrecognised and undervalued, influencer. So next time you’re scoping out a consumer research project, we encourage you to consider how you are including the voice of the most experienced in society.

*names changed for confidentiality


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