Feature Article - May/June 2002
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Beyond BINGO

Marketing and programming for seniors nowadays is more rock climbing than rocking chairs

By Margaret Ahrweiler


Who are These Boomer Seniors Going to Be?

Leave it to the AARP to get the best handle on seniors and their recreational needs. From a recent study, the AARP has grouped seniors into four fitness types, according to Margaret Hawkins, AARP campaign manager, health.

The Do-Nothings are sedentary and not interested in getting any information about changing that lifestyle.

"You can put a lot of energy into that group and not get much of a return," Hawkins admits.

The Planners are trying to develop a plan to get active, but they lack information and don't know the range of options available. They may put activity on their lists, but it keeps moving down that list since they're not certain how to start.

The Tryers are attempting to become active but may not be doing enough. Many in this group have experienced a trigger: a health condition, stress or they've seen their peers declining. Their activity tends to come on a trial-and-error basis, Hawkins says.

The Habitual Exercisers don't need much help from anyone, as their name implies.

Does the huge demographic bulge of soon-to-be-seniors on the horizon mean that gyms and rec centers will be swarmed with mobs of gray?

The AARP also has worked to categorize aging Baby Boomers. In a major study published last year, "Baby Boomers Envision Their Retirement," the AARP broke Boomers into five categories. While they apply to overall attitudes toward retirement, they also reflect how these groups will view recreation.

The Self Reliants, the largest group at 30 percent, boasts the highest income and education level, are saving aggressively for retirement, and plan to work at least part time after they retire for the interest and enjoyment. Only 1 percent expect not to work at all.

Today's Traditionalists, 25 percent, have a stronger sense of confidence toward federal programs such as social security and envision a very traditional (hence their name) retirement.

The Anxious, 23 percent, live below the average Boomers' household income level, don't expect financial security when the retire and assume they will continue working because they must.

The Enthusiasts, 13 percent, eagerly await their retirement, plan not to work at all, and foresee devoting plenty of time and money to recreation.

The Strugglers, 9 percent, post the lowest income and are comprised of women over men by nearly 2 to 1. They've saved no money for retirement because they have none to save and look upon retirement with little optimism.