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How do over-50s shop?

8th January 2019

Over 50s have more impact on the UK economy than you could’ve imagined. In an age group which is rapidly growing, the way in which they are spending their money is incredibly influential. In fact, according to Khaos Control, “they contribute 76% of the UK’s financial wealth and just under half of its consumer spending”.  Baby boomers are changing the way in which we see over 50s. With more and more people pushing back their retirement dates and people waiting longer before thinking about retirement homes, their spending habits have evolved. In 2016, the over 50s spent more than the younger generation for the first time, spending £376 billion on things such as food, entertainment and clothes which, according to AOL, contributed £119 billion to the economy.

Despite the increasing number of pounds being spent, businesses can still struggle to relate to this audience and fail to meet the consumer demand in this area. Start-up businesses and emerging trends fail to appeal to the over 50s and, instead, creates a large gap in the market. In a survey by Sunlife, it was found that 62% of over 50s aim to spend their savings, with fewer people believing that leaving an inheritance to their children is a priority. “We have all heard the term SKI - Spending Kids Inheritance – to describe this generation of older people who are happily enjoying the finer things in life while younger generations are supposedly watching on bitterly as they struggle to make ends meet. But our research shows that younger generations are not bitter. In fact, the vast majority don’t see their parents as selfish simply for spending and enjoying their own hard-earned cash - just one in ten their parents are spending too much of their inheritance.” says Ian Atkinson, marketing director at SunLife.


Life expectancy has increased dramatically over the past 30 years, with “the average male and female expected to live until 83.2 and 85.7 respectively”, says The Guardian. As people live for longer, there is a reduced desire to retire at 60. With this in mind, over 50s are choosing to remain working for longer, often in highly-skilled professions such as GPs and lawyers and, as a result of this, they are opting to stay at home for longer.

With fewer people opting to move into retirement homes, older people instead are looking to downsize or renovate their existing properties to reflect their lifestyles better. Installing a stairlift in your home, remodelling kitchens and bathrooms and widening hallways are all great options if they are struggling with low mobility, as many over 50s are deciding against moving to a smaller property. One of the reasons for this is due to family and the ability to host people. Additional bedrooms make this easier, so this demographic is now spending money perfecting their family home for their later life.

Food and drink

One of the biggest areas in which over 50s spend is for essential items, including food and drink. Although it is more likely that this age group will have lower incomes, their assets and savings mean that they can spend more on getting better quality produce. In a report by Mintel, it discovered that baby boomers were the age group most likely to eat meat at home, as well as more than once a week. This suggests that they’re looking for high-quality options to have hearty meals at home, and with the potential to have more time at home, cooking is a hobby that people in this demographic often pick up.

Cooking is a great way for over 50s to pass the time. Not only does it give them something to focus on, improving their attention spans and ability to concentrate, but allows them to make healthy and informed choices on what they eat. As people get older, adjustments need to be made in order to ensure that they are getting the right vitamins and minerals. This is imperative, as the right, balanced diet can lower conditions like heart disease and improve the levels of cholesterol in their bodies.

The Eatwell Guide recommends that older people eat a diet which has been split into four groups: fruit and vegetables, potatoes and other starchy foods, dairy and alternatives, and protein. Fortunately, “The Bridgethorne Shopper Index found that 95 per cent of those aged 55 and above regularly bought fresh fruit and vegetables as part of their grocery shopping. This compares to 86 per cent of those aged 18 to 34.”

As people enter retirement, it can be greatly beneficial for them to pick up a skill, and cooking meals encourage mealtimes to be shared with others. In the same report, it was discovered that only 9% of over 50s found that they would rarely have meals together. This implies that mealtimes are incredibly important to this demographic, especially considering over 50s are a lot less likely to eat convenience foods than those who are of a younger generation.

With more over 50s staying in their own homes, they are needing to cater for themselves at mealtimes, with more people using technology to order food straight to their homes. In a report by the NDP Group, it was suggested that "the over 50s currently account for 14% of all delivery visits and this will increase three percentage points by 2022 to 17%". As older people become more tech-savvy, it is convenient for them to order their groceries straight to their home, especially if they struggle with their mobility. The availability of food online also means that those who suffer from feelings of anxiety can comfortably order food without the stresses of a busy supermarket. However, this does eliminate the social aspect that some over 50s may require in order to combat feelings of loneliness.

Lifestyle and entertainment 

As people age, their general household bills decrease. As mortgages are paid off and there are fewer people using electricity and water in the homes, the average number of monthly bills drops. This allows more money to be spent on lifestyle and entertainment. In a report by the Office for National Statistics, over 50s spend more money on recreation and culture than any other age demographic, spending “nearly a fifth (18%) of total spending on it, making this the top expenditure category for this age group.”

Over 50s can benefit from a range of different schemes, such as the Odeon’s weekly silver screenings. For just £3, they can enjoy a film, hot drink and biscuits, making this a great activity to do when socialising with friends. Additionally, other cinemas offer similar schemes but for those who are over 60. As mentioned, food becomes one of the priorities for people in this age group, and there are myriad different restaurants which offer meals at discounted rates. From signing up to clubs to stand-alone offers, this means that those who are over 50 can enjoy eating out frequently, without it making a huge dent in their wallet.

When it comes to their lifestyle, ensuring that they are staying fit is one of the most important things. Staying active is easier than they may think, as they can decide how strenuous they wish the activity to be. With this in mind, there are a number of different gyms that offer special discounts, as well as classes geared specifically towards them. Joining a gym is great, as it means that they can also reap the benefits such as reduced loneliness, better mental wellbeing and better overall health.

With the increased number of smart devices on the market, over 50s have had their interest piqued with this technology. Over the past decade, new technology has been aimed at millennials, often isolating older people as it has been harder for them to get to grips with. However, these new products with easier interfaces appeal to this demographic. There are a number of different devices that older people can use to help them around the home, from smart locks on their front doors and security cameras to keep them feeling safe, to medical devices such as a blood pressure cuff and smart pill case to ensure that their medication is distributed throughout the day properly.

The Pew Research Centre has found that “four in ten seniors now own smartphones, more than double who owned a smartphone in 2013." Plus, OFCOM has discovered that "Record numbers of older people are embracing smart and social technology, with a quarter of over-75s using tablet computers, and half of online baby boomers taking to social media." This suggests that older people are behind this latest wave in technology and investing more money into it. The connectivity of smart devices has improved massively over the past couple of years, making it more accessible. Additionally, voice search is a great tool for those who would struggle with buttons on a mobile phone as a result of arthritis. Being able to move around their home with a stairlift, they can ask their home assistant questions without the need of understanding difficult technology.

In the Technology and Over 55s report by Mintel, it was found that “seniors are more likely to have a television within their household than younger generations (92% vs 85% of under-55s).” Additionally, Reader’s Digest suggests that an increasing number of over 50s are investing in smartphones and laptops for convenience, as they can now pay bills, reach out to friends and develop new skills from using these devices.

Alison Preston, Head of Media Literacy at Ofcom, said: “The UK’s older generation is beginning to embrace smart technology, and using it to keep in touch with friends and family. But some older people lack confidence online or struggle to navigate search results. Many are new to the internet, so we’d encourage people to help older friends or family who need support getting connected.”

This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only and are up to date as of the time of publishing