Martha Stewart broke the internet when Sports Illustrated unveiled its swimsuit issue featuring the 81-year-old cover girl.

Clearly, today’s seniors are not your grandparents’ grandparents. Seniors like Martha Stewart are not aging gracefully– many don’t want to admit they’re aging at all. 

And by the sheer number of them, seniors are a force to be reckoned with. People 65 and older currently make up about 17 percent of the U.S. population, but thanks to the baby boom, that number is expected to double by 2040. 

Seniors also have oversized buying power. Research from the AARP indicates that Americans over 50 drive the majority of consumer spending across every category. Seniors account for about two thirds of spending in health, goods and services and housing. They are responsible for more than half of spending on alcoholic beverages and recreational drugs, communications, recreation & culture, furnishings, and food. 

Even though many of today’s seniors work hard to stay fit and active, aging adults face unique challenges that can impact how researchers engage with them and their top concerns. 

Here are some things we’ve observed about today’s seniors: 

Today’s seniors are tech savvy.

Social Lens often conducts research using our asynchronous mobile-first qualitative data app. Whereas once we expected older study participants to struggle with the technology, the pandemic turned every grandma in America into a Zoom expert. With tech no longer a barrier to recruitment, we can tap into the benefits of online study methods. For example, asynchronous research can make participants less hesitant to share their thoughts about difficult topics such as urinary incontinence. 

Today’s seniors are well informed and self-aware.

Baby boomers are educated and experienced. They value being respected and asked for their opinions. Co-creation methods can be especially useful for engaging seniors in solving their own problems. And resist the temptation to condescend. They may be aging, but seniors still want to look and feel their best, even if they’re using assistive technology.

Retirement looks different for today’s seniors.

Consistent with rising inequality across the spectrum, seniors today face drastically different financial and family realities. Some seniors have money to burn on luxury travel and the latest miracle skin products. Others are spending their retirement caring for others: The RAND Corporation estimates that about 10% of grandparents provide for grandchildren in their home. 

The team at Social Lens Research specializes in reaching diverse audiences to ask challenging questions. We would love to help you connect with your community to solve problems and improve lives. Our diverse team of researchers and strategists has a proven track record of engaging multicultural and underrepresented populations for leading organizations, including associations and nonprofits. Learn more about our research here and reach out here.

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