PURCHASING HABITS AND MARKET
POTENTIALITIES OF THE OLDER CONSUMER
Market structures have always been dynamic, changing in emphasis as one segment or another enlarged or decreased. In the twentieth century an especially rapid change in the basic age distribution has taken place. Within the past few years a change in age distribution has resulted from the rapid growth of that segment of the population which is 65 years of age and older. During the past sixty years, the number of persons in this age group has increased more than fifty per cent. In 1900, only 4.1 per cent of the entire population of the United States were sixty-five years of age or older.' In 196o, 9.2 per cent of the population were in this age group.
When the population within this age stratum was small, marketers naturally were unconcerned. With relative scarcity of products, especially during and after war periods, there was little reason for marketers to pay attention to the characteristics of individual markets. Today, marketers face a buyers' market where attention to the needs and desires of each market segment may be meaningful. Now that the population 65 years of age and older has increased with such rapidity, and to such proportions, it is attracting attention, but because this is a new market and because of the lack of information about it, marketers have tended to do nothing.
In order to obtain informatioii about the marketing characteristics of this enlarged older population, a sample of the population of Portland, Oregon, was selected and interviews were conducted to obtain information revealing certain attitudes and buying patterns of this population. This article summarizes the major findings of that study3
CHANGING SOCIAL ROLE OF OLDER
Economic and marketing characteristics reflect the demands of society. While economies were essentially agricultural, the role of the older person was an enviable *A.B. 1934, A.M. I951, University of Oregon; Ph.D. 1956, Graduate School of Business Administration, New York University. Professor, Portland State College (Oregon). Contributor to professional and business publications.
'U.S. BUREAU OF THE CENSUS, DEP'T OF COMMERCE, CENSUS OF POPULATION: 1950, VOL. 2, CHARACTEIsTIcs OF THE POPULATION, PART I, p. 1-93, table 39 (1953). 'U.S. BUREAU oF THE CENSUS, DEP'T OF COMMERCE, CENSUS OF POPULATION: I960, UNITED STATES SUMMARY, GENR-AL POPULATION CHaRacrERISrCS, pc (r) I B.U.S., p. 1-148, table 46 (g6i). gFor expansion of this information, see ROBERT E. DODGE, AN ANALYSIS OF CERTAIN CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MARKET OF PERSONS SIxTY-FIVE YEARS oF ACE AND OVER TOGETHER WITH A CONSIDERATION OF MERCHANTS' ATTITUDES TOWARD THAT MARKET IN PORTLAND, OREGON (unpublished dissertation in
New York University Graduate School of Business Administration Library 1956).
PURCHASING HABITS AND MARKET POTENTIALITIES
one. Old people were often leaders of the tribe or social group and their advice, opinion, and leadership-largely due to maturity-placed them in a favored position. Older persons, in their wisdom, were respected, and their place in society was one of considerable importance. In some countries-for example, China-older persons were venerated. As economies changed from agriculture to industry and as the population grew rapidly in the younger ages, older persons found themselves less needed and therefore less wanted by society. Old age became a symbol of uselessness, and old persons became a social burden.
In America during industrialization, the attitude of the whole population reflected the needs of our early economic and social development. In fact, it was necessary in the development of the country to emphasize youth and strong physical vigor. The frontiers of the land presented hardships and difficulties which required youthful energy to meet its hazards. The ideal American at that time was young, healthy, fearless, and strong. Something...
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