Reaching older consumers – where to start?

The guest blog is contributed by Mona Shekarriz, Research Associate with Age UK’s Engage Business Network. Mona is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK to conduct market segmentation and to examine consumer behaviour in later life.

It is often the case that businesses either neglect providing products and services to older age groups or at best think that they have them in their customer base but do not consider the importance of understanding their needs.

There are also companies that properly understand the older groups of people, but in general businesses overlook the great potentials that lie in correctly addressing the needs and wishes of this age group. Ideally, there should be solutions which help companies to be inclusive in their design and delivery so that people won’t get excluded because of age or lifestyle. But to get there we first need to start understanding the real needs and expectations of older consumers. This is where most businesses fail because they see them as one big group of people who are over a certain age.

This is certainly wrong for every age group and especially for older people as they develop more individuality as years go by. Professional and social preferences, life changing events such as health changes or loss of a partner, role changes such as becoming retired or becoming a grandparent are some examples of why people develop more individuality as they grow older. In other words, years gives them more time to develop more differences. So there is a high level of granularity within the older age groups. Continue reading “Reaching older consumers – where to start?”

Home accidents amongst older adults

The guest blog is written by Anna McConnell, a Product and Service Research Associate with Engage Business Network, Age UK. She is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK.

Stories regarding the living standards of older people have been hitting the news with uncomfortable regularity. The recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report found that the home care of many older people often fails to reach basic standards. This report, among others, highlights a lack of regard and understanding of the needs of older people in our society, and without addressing these areas it is possible that standards will not rise and the isolation and loneliness that many experience will continue.

Until 2002, The Department of Trade and Industry published nationwide accident data, broken down by kind, severity and age. This data provided a useful insight into the areas of potential danger in the home for many older people. The last report of this kind was the 24th Report of the Home and Leisure Accident Surveillance System which estimated that in 2002, 750 000 people aged over 75 were treated in Accident and Emergency in the UK. Falls were found to be the most common causes for hospital admissions, accounting for over sixty percent of accident related deaths, with a fifth of falls amongst women aged over 50 resulting in hospitalisation for bone fractures. Kitchens and stairs were shown as the locations of the most serious accidents whilst the living and bedrooms were the most common places for home accidents.

The HLASS report represents an extensive accident data collection across eighteen UK hospitals. Unfortunately, there are several issues which might reduce the reliability of the data:

The age of research means many changes since 2002, including:

  • Increasing population of over 65s (under 9 million in 1995 to 10.3 million in 2011)
  • Medical advances
  • An economic downturn, affecting the stock market and private pensions
  • A sharp rise in the cost of living (including fuel, inflation, cost of food)
  • The focus of the report is on cases requiring hospitalisation, so a large number of minor injuries may not be included
  • The age classification of 15 to 64 is too large and will prevent the efficient analysis of injuries amongst younger old people aged between 50 and 64.

Older people are more susceptible to injury than the population as a whole and they tend to be more seriously physically and emotionally affected by accidents. Older people, for example, are more likely to break a bone as a consequence of an accidental injury than the rest of the population, perhaps explaining a common fear of repeated injury amongst many older people.

Interestingly, the emotional consequences of accidents amongst older people can often be more severe than the physical ones, especially for women. Accidents can often reduce a person’s confidence, leading to decreased social interaction and self-esteem, and loss of independence and confidence. In severe cases these symptoms can results in long-term conditions such as depression, which affects women more than men.

The 24th Report is now dated and although it can still provide a partial overview of common accidents amongst older people, new research is needed to deal with current trends. It is unclear why accident data collection and publication stopped in 2002, especially given the unprecedented demographic changes that the UK is experiencing and the financial burden on the NHS.

Collecting this data will have represented a significant cost to the National Health Service but despite the costs, this data is crucial in building a picture of the lives of older people and designing inclusive products that can reduce injuries and dramatically improve quality of life of older people, who often live alone and can feel isolated from the communities they live in. Therefore new quantitative and qualitative research is required in order to fully understand home injuries amongst older people and design effective and non-stigmatising product and service solutions that could reduce the numbers of accidents in the home.

Find out more about our Care in Crisis campaign

Read more about falls awareness

‘Products and services for older people’ – What does this mean?

The guest blog is written by Mona Shekarriz, Research Associate with Engage Business Network, Age UK. She is working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between Brunel University and Age UK to conduct market segmentation and to examine consumer behaviour in later life.

When hearing about a product or service for older people a number of questions come to mind. Who are “older people” and on what basis these products and services are designed and delivered?

A lot of dispute exists on the meaning of old age. Is it simply a factor of our birth date? Is it the life stage we are in? Or does it come from our looks or physical or mental state? Maybe our interests, plans for the future, experiences, our social circle, and financial status…the list could go on and on.

In fact our real age is a combination of all these, but the sad truth is that industries largely judge our age only by our date of birth.  The reason is that we are more comfortable comparing people against the stereotypes we have in mind. These stereotypes come from our social, cultural and personal experiences in life, for instance we assign certain characteristics to older people and others to younger ones. It is much easier for us to ask for someone’s age and start building a picture of their life in our head based on the stereotypes we have.

But if we are working towards a world tolerant of people with different behaviours and interests, why do we make an exception in the way we treat age? Why do we keep asking people’s age and take major actions based on this one piece of information? This is especially damaging for companies designing and developing products and services. 

There are no doubts that ageing causes some physical and mental decline. However it is a mistake to overlook all other aspects of someone’s life and assume their physical and mental state based on their age. With the advancements in technology and medicine, and equality and diversity legislation, people have better opportunities to live longer, healthier and more distinctive lives.

This brings us back to the issue of how products and services specifically for older people are actually being developed. In other words, do we really think of all the above in development and delivery of those products and services?  If a product or service targets people in a certain life stage, the best way to success and to improve the quality of later life is to start understanding people not only by their age, but also by all aspects of their lives.

“Man’s age is something impressive, it sums up his life.  A man’s age represents a fine cargo of experiences and memories.”  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Learn more about what Age UK does to help make digital technology inclusive for older people.