GREEN BEFORE GREENBACKS
Boomers bring new notions to senior marketing mix
By Tim Torres
Copley News Service
You are never too old to set another goal or to dream another dream, said author C.S. Lewis.
Or to save the planet, apparently - something we are learning from today's seniors who are turning deep green.
According to a 2007 Focalyst Insight Report by AARP, there is a prevailing attitude among baby boomers and older consumers to make the world a better place. Three-quarters of the 30,000 persons surveyed said they feel they have a responsibility to do so.
"We found that socially conscious attitudes are very much at the heart of boomers, and these strong convictions are a driving force for how they buy and the brands they choose," the marketing survey states.
Older shoppers are not driven primarily by price, it continued. Baby boomers use a far more diverse set of considerations. In fact, the survey showed five different groupings within the respondents. The "socially conscious" grouping was the largest, with 56 percent.
Within this group, people:
- Try to buy from companies that give back to their communities.
- Buy brands that are environmentally safe.
- Would choose locally produced goods more often than not.
- Thought it was important to support local retailers.
- Thought it was worth paying more for organic foods.
"For some boomers, socially conscious behaviors have been ingrained for decades, starting with the peace and environmental movements of the 1960s. For others, it became a concern as they started families and considered the future of their children and grandchildren," the survey states.
"Clearly many baby boomers and retirees not only have time and money, but the sage wisdom that comes with experience. It simply makes good sense to conserve the planet, the same way people maintain healthy bodies ... It's all about sustainability," says Delta Willis with the National Audubon Society.
According to Anne Coon, senior citizens program coordinator in the Orange County, N.Y., Office for the Aging: "Seniors are more receptive to going green because, as a natural part of the process of maturing, they become more altruistic and want to leave the world a better place for their grandchildren and everyone else. I know that local seniors in my area recycle to the point of obsession and they are naturally very frugal, especially the older ones who lived through the Depression and several wars."
Seniors are very effective at any cause, she adds, because most of them are not distracted by having to make a living, commute and constantly care for dependent family members. "Most of them enjoy good health and a comfortable income, so they have the freedom to 'fix what's broken' in their world."
And they have been thinking about it for some time, says Bob Schildgen, 65, environmental columnist for the Sierra Club magazine.
His generation has a long history of social activism, he says. "We were there when Earth Day was created, in 1970." It's a generation that witnessed the civil rights movement, Vietnam, feminism and author Rachel Carson's 1962 book "Silent Spring," a wake-up call about the environment. "Many of us have been marked by all that."
There is a convergence of forces going on, he says. The right generation has the time and the power to do the right thing. "People might say we are reliving the past. That's nonsense. We're upset."
There is a lot of despair out there about the condition of the world today, he says. But seniors are coming to the fore and the younger generations seem to be taking the threat seriously, too. "I have a lot of hope for this generation, in terms of the environment."
And if you take stock of what has been done to save the planet, there has been some real progress. The Mississippi River was terribly polluted in his youth, he recalled. It has been cleaned up considerably now, as have other environmental targets, such as reducing lead and mercury in our waters. "History shows us we move ahead, not as fast as we want to, but we move ahead," Schildgen.
Is this movement the last hurrah of the '60s generation?
"I do not think this is their last rebellion," Coon of Orange County, N.Y., said. "I think we will see that when the full flood of baby boomers wakes up to the realities of health care and long-term care in our country. Then, look out!"
? Copley News Service
Visit Copley News Service at www.copleynews.com.