Miranda Shorebridge (Diploma in Wellness Coaching Skills)
One billion children were born between 1949 and 1964, and today these are the ‘Golden Boomer’ generation, or ‘Baby Boomers’ until they retire… a significant portion of the population is now over 55… and these consumers are a major market segment for the health and wellness industry (Alexander 2011 p 15). This population is diverse in its healthcare needs, depending on:
- whether they are still working or ‘retired’;
- trying to maintain good health, dealing with weight issues including obesity, the menopause, coping with chronic illness, or the onset of major diseases like diabetes, cancer and heart problems;
- the make-up of the household e.g. single through divorce or bereavement or coming to terms with step parenting, children leaving home ‘empty nest syndrome’ or returning for financial reasons, known as ‘Revolving Door’ www.sfgate.com – or caring for elderly relatives.
Life expectancy has nearly doubled in the past century, and society has changed a great deal since these baby boomers were born, and with this comes an even greater impetus to understand the healthcare needs of this generation, who want a long, happy, healthy ‘Middle age beginning at 55’, as reported recently by www.lovetolearn.co.uk(online learning website). Previous studies have reported the start of middle age as 36 and 19% surveyed felt that middle age is a state of mind – that they have more confidence and it is a great age to be.
Lewis Wolpert (2011) says this generation- with the biggest population increase, is the richest group economically, coining the term the ‘grey pound’ with the ideal of positive aging – to live longer, look younger and stay healthy and active for as long as possible. Women have long held the limelight in terms of research into their healthcare needs at this stage, including osteoporosis and the menopause. My research with staff at Holland and Barrett in Winchester confirms that women over 45 are the biggest market for vitamins and other wellbeing products e.g. healthy living magazines. Women have been conditioned to be body conscious for a long time and dieting advice is rife. Women-only gyms abound and health spas are aimed firmly at women – a leaflet for Grayshott spa advertises a 5 day Menopause retreat as an alternative to HRT.
In contrast, a look along the shelves of magazines at Tesco revealed little for men in this age group: as one member of staff said “magazine publishing is geared towards Sports magazines aimed at men under 40 and older men who would like advice about staying fit and healthy are not catered for”. Key healthcare concerns for older men include dealing with prostate and testicular cancer, depression, chronic illness and failing strength (Legato 2009).
An internet search of over 55s local healthcare revealed a Winchester Over 55s forum which was set up by the new Winchester Health and Wellbeing Partnership Board, as a response to the Health and Social Care Act (2012). This aims to ensure a more joined up approach to healthcare through all the agencies involved. Having just reached 55, I received a leaflet in the post inviting me for my first ‘Free NHS Heath Check for 40-74 year olds – helping you prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and kidney problems’.
Advances in science and technology, especially in neuroscience and the understanding of DNA, mean that health care can be individualised in future so that doctors can focus on prevention and treatment of disease (Legato 2009). The advent of internet mobiles means that Apps for health and fitness abound e.g. Baby Boomers Secrets -the power and influence of this App will lie in user feedback and recommendation Technology will be used by more tech- savvy baby boomers to track health and medication, research symptoms and seek advice online via forums and social media (www.oxygen.mintel.com World trends Know 2015). Medical advances in fertility, mean that women are able to give birth later and medical screening e.g. for cancers and advances in treatment mean greater life expectancy. Interest in nutrition and ‘super foods’ plus the growth of alternative medicine, fitness trainers and growing government awareness of the ticking health time bomb of obesity are all responses to the variety of healthcare needs presented by Golden Boomers and future generations.
Health care is more than just staying well – as we age we need to keep mentally and physically fit, keep on learning and have a sense of purpose. The Ramblers and Macmillan have joined forces to promote Health Walks aimed at more sedentary mid lifers and the BBC recently reported that active pensioners can add 6 years to their lives. Walking, which is free and accessible to most, can help address a number of health care needs including greater physical and mental fitness leading to potentially less isolation and fewer burdens on the NHS. More affluent baby boomers aged 45-64 make up 40% of the long haul travel market and are more likely to have a touring holiday than young backpackers! Holidays combining wellness and travel are a growing trend e.g. overseas spas and retreats, as are singles holidays catering to the increasing number of single households. Information and values are important to these experienced health and wellbeing consumers (brandchannel.com Bayer King, ‘Engaging the Aging: Marketing to Europe’s Seniors’.
Wellness coaching opportunities look set to grow, as research shows this generation is willing to invest in well-being. The BACP Coaching Division is running an event March 2013 aimed at coaching the Golden Boomer market. Preservation and quality of life are key concerns and the most important market segments are empty nest couples and older singles (Furlong 2007). However, the range of life issues is wide for this generation, and clients might need support with issues as wide ranging as redundancy, retirement, relationships and dating, to bereavement, caring for young and old; from weight loss, menopause, depression and self-esteem to coping with illness and loneliness; also achieving a work- life balance, a new sense of purpose and maximum happiness and well-being.
- Alexander, L (2011) How to Incorporate Wellness Coaching into your Therapeutic Practice. London: Singing Dragon
- Friedman, H (2011) The Longevity Project. London: Hay House
- Furlong, M (2007) Turning Silver into Gold: How to Profit in the New Boomer Marketplace. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Financial Times Press
- Legato, M (2009) Why Men Die First. New York: Palgrave Macmillan
- Wolpert, L (2011) You’re Looking Very Well. The Surprising Nature of Getting Old. London: Faber and Faber Ltd.
- Bayer King, E (2004) Engaging the Aging: Marketing to Europe’s Seniors – Brandchannel.com
- www.lovetolearn.co.uk Survey cited on www.bbc.co.uk
- www.oxygen.mintel.com World trends Know 2015
- www.sfgate.com Roberts, M (2012) Household advice for ‘no- longer empty nesters