Gray Matters

Seniors to sway future trends.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the January 1999 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Sure, baby boomers are aging--but that doesn't mean they'll be slowing down anytime soon (as consumers, anyway). Which leads to the obvious: You can bet the fads to come will have vintage appeal.

Hit The Road

What's bigger than a 45-foot recreational vehicle rolling down the highway? The anticipated sales of RVs, say the experts, and the trigger is the aging baby boom generation. Forty-four percent of RV buyers are age 55 or older--and the leading edge of the baby boom will hit that milestone in 2001. More fuel is provided by camping's strong appeal--67 percent of Americans say they plan to increase their participation in camping, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association. RVs are the way to camp in comfort--and comfort becomes more important as aging bodies become less resilient.

One piece of proof that a boom is on the way: In 1991, industry retail sales hit $6.7 billion; by 1996, that number had shot up to $12.4 billion, and it's still climbing. And it's not only RV makers and retailers who are benefiting. Manufacturers and retailers of aftermarket gear, campground operators, and others are getting in on the trend.

Flex Time

Fitness clubs are graying--that's the conclusion from surveys done by IDEA, an association of health and fitness professionals. "Clubs are seeing more 55-plus members joining," says IDEA's David Gilroy. In its 1998 survey of fitness programs, IDEA discovered that a stunning 29 percent of respondents' clients are age 55 or older. "Seniors know the Surgeon General says that physical activity can mean a longer life and better quality of life, and they're taking fitness seriously," says Gilroy.

And experts expect sustained growth in senior health-club members. "This is going to be a very big market for the fitness industry," says Gilroy.

Taking Care

Daycare isn't just for kids anymore. As we've told you in the past, adult daycare is booming, and the proof is in the number of centers. In 1978, there were 300, and in 1997, some 4,000, say statistics compiled by the National Adult Day Services Association. Watch this trend explode, as baby boomers begin to need such places to hang out, starting around 2010.

Sweet Dentures

Look for grocery store carts to fill up with powerful, zesty foods--thanks to the deterioration in taste and smell that starts when we turn 60. Who'll bank off sensory-deprived seniors, you may ask? Think candy makers, who already enjoy surging demand (from 1988 to 1995, per capita annual consumption jumped by around 8 percent). This much is known: 68 percent of men over 50 say they would rather get chocolates than flowers for Valentine's Day, according to poll data cited by the National Confectioners Association.

Contact Sources


National Confectioners Association, 7900 W. Park Dr., Ste. A320, McLean, VA 22102,

Recreational Vehicle Industry Association, (909) 351-3504, fax: (703) 620-5071

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