Is 60 The New 40? Indian Seniors Are Greying Great

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“I am old, not obsolete” - Arnold Schwarzenegger, Terminator Genisys (2015)


In a country where we have businesses, eCommerce portals and startups for every purpose, seniors have been overlooked barring in the healthcare space. Targeting the youth and young adults, who are obviously more tech-savvy and easier to access, many of these entities have established sustainable business models for themselves. However, the striking fact getting missed is how India's fastest growing demography is the senior segment.

India's population is growing at a rate of 1.8 per cent per annum while the 60+ section of India is growing at 3.8 per cent, more than double of the average. The number which is standing at 112 million right now is all set to become 240 million by 2050.

Seniors are largely covered by media when they are at the receiving end of emotional and physical wrongdoing. While these stories remain a sad fact, equally true is the silent revolution taking place in the new Indian Seniors’ expectations from retired life. Many Indian seniors are not the seniors which were portrayed by Om Prakash, AK Hangal and Nirupa Roy in the 1970s blockbusters.

1. India is going nuclear - more and more seniors are living independently with children moving outside their home city or country for work. As per a survey done by AZ research of High New worth seniors (Rs 2 crores plus), only 17 per cent of such seniors were living with their children in Metro’s, a number that increases to 74 in non- metro locations. Even for those who are living with parents, time spent with parents is coming down thanks to longer working hours, spending time with spouse and kids and pursuit of personal interests.

2. Living in a connected and global society is opening up the minds of seniors and their families. They are more exposed, aware and aspirational than any previous generation of Seniors. Whether it is using social media or Smartphone’s or using whatsapp or skype  to connect with families spread around the world, seniors are getting exposed to the same information that the younger generations are.

3. Seniors are increasingly seeking ways to make their Retirement years count. Whether it is seeking new hobbies or cultivating old ones, reconnecting with old friends, learning technology, re-starting their education or starting flexible 2nd careers, the new-age Seniors are redefining retirement as ‘refirement’.

“If Vajpayee could run a country at 75, I can surely run a company!” 84-year old Yamini Mazumdar ( mother of Biocon’s Kiran Majumdar Shaw)  depicts the feelings of this generation with these simple words. She should know. She started a dry-cleaning business after the demise of her husband when she was 68… her venture employs over 45 people today at Bangalore and she takes on a 9 hour work-day and a 10km commute even today. Having overcome several health issues along the way, she shares matter-of-factly, “Self-pity is the worst affliction”.

Seniors are also rediscovering their love for travel in new ways. Free from the responsibilities of raising their kids,  they are eagerly starting a whole new phase of life. And what better way to re-discover themselves and the world than through travel.

“ With a controlled diet, exercise and a quiet mind, there are no excuses to not follow your passions”, says 61-year old Deepak Amembal, retired Air India professional who undertook a 72-day bike sojourn from Mumbai to Ladakh to North-East & Orissa. “I wouldn’t trade the experience of those 72 days for anything”, he shares. Not surprisingly, Frost & Sullivan reports Seniors as one of the 6 next big niches that are set to shape the future of Travel in Asia Pacific.

There are many who are silently making the journey within… exploring what their interests were when they were younger, and picking up from where they’d left off. Consider Mrs. Susheela Thothadri, 79, an erstwhile housewife who went back to pursuing her passion for religious music in her 60’s and then completed her MA, M.Phil and is currently in the final stages of her Ph.D at Mumbai University.

“Life is not a rehearsal. It is the show, happening right now, whatever it is. Stop waiting for things to happen so that you can then do the things you love. Just do them now. “After 40 years of not having driven a car in India, Gurgaon-based Dr. Suhaylah Shaikh participated in and completed a Women’s Car Rally, driving a manly Bolero. She shares her happy ageing mantra “Every time you think you can’t do something, the next thing you do is go and do it”.

If this quote is anything to go by, there is a visible shift in the mindset of Indian seniors. They are not shying away from adopting ‘modernity’, whether in thoughts or deed. When we pose questions on our SeniorWorld Facebook page (which has a community of over 68000 seniors), about their preferences for Joint or Nuclear families, or what they think of parents living with their married daughters, most of the replies are pragmatic, non judgemental and open in nature, a far cry from the time when even the thought of independent living or living with daughters was socially unacceptable. And this generation wants to be heard and understood.

Like any other customer segment, they have unique needs of their own – whether it is health or security solutions; travel or technology ; assistance services or financial products. And, like any other large segment, there are sub segments – defined by the stage of life, their state of activeness and the family ecosystem.

While Seniors are perceived to be tougher customers who take more time to decide and are more value conscious, they are willing to spend – driven by the independence ( financial and otherwise) that they have.

The challenge for companies is to understand these unique needs and create products and services that are specifically designed for seniors. This includes not just the product design but also the after sales service or the way the product is sold/ distributed.

Do you remember walking into a superstore where they have a dedicated section for seniors? Probably no. This is the gap companies must try to bridge. Frankly, what is specialised for seniors in India is largely hospitals, FD rates and train fares.  This vast, fast growing-market is ripe for tapping.

Indian Seniors are not just greying; they are greying great. Is the market ready for their demands?