Research with Boomers and Seniors: 3 things you need to know
Posted October 10, 2012
With ever-increasing longevity, Baby Boomer and Senior populations continue to grow at an incredible pace. Their careers are lasting longer, they are more active than ever before, and enjoy more disposable income than their predecessors. As you think through your strategy for including Boomers and Seniors in qualitative research, there are a few considerations to ensure you get the most out of your engagement with these groups.
With ever-increasing longevity, Baby Boomer and Senior populations continue to grow at an incredible pace. Their careers are lasting longer, they are more active than ever before, and enjoy more disposable income than their predecessors. All of these things, coupled with greater interest, time, and loyalty make these groups ideal for many QMR projects. In fact, as time goes on, understanding how these segments fit into your overall research goals won’t be an option … it will be a necessity. As you think through your strategy for including Boomers and Seniors in qualitative research, there are a few things we think should be considered to ensure you get the most out of your engagement with these groups.
When it comes to research, Boomers and Seniors are distinct groups, with unique needs
This may seem obvious—then again, it may not—but Boomers and Seniors, on the whole, are two very different populations. Accordingly, it’s important they not be treated as one homogeneous group when designing research projects.
As Boomers “come of age,” for example, they remain active, vital, and engaged in a way not seen in aging populations of past generations. They travel, they adopt technology, and they continue to work well beyond traditional retirement age. As Ken Dychtwald, Ph.D., author of Age Wave and Wave Power said, "Boomers don't just populate existing life stages or consumer trends, they transform them." Because of that, they can be engaged in research using novel, innovative approaches; they can handle a faster pace, and less instruction; and they can be engaged in multiple settings with, in many cases, a fairly flexible schedule.
Seniors, on the other hand, tend to have more set patterns of behavior and, while enthusiastic about research, are typically more cautious and need reassurance about their participation. They can require more time to complete an assignment, and at times need to be kept on task, requiring an astute moderator to keep the project moving without alienating or upsetting the participants. Perhaps most important of all, Seniors’ mobility and accessibility can vary widely among a single group of participants, so designing a project that can flex to meet those needs is key.
Research with older populations doesn’t have to be complicated; in fact, it can be easier than you think
Boomers and Seniors may represent two very specific demographics, each with their own unique needs, but when it comes to research, they can be every bit as savvy as their younger counterparts; and that can simplify many of the projects that involve them.
We routinely use online and interactive methods with boomer and senior populations, including online bulletin boards, webcams, and smart phones. It may sounds strange, but there are few methods we are unable to employ with participants in either group. That said, when in-person meetings are required, these participants are rarely late, and need little reminding of the commitment. Perhaps best of all, they have the tendency to stay engaged, they do their homework, and they work hard to meet the objectives of the project. Likewise, older participants, in our experience, are very forthright in their responses, and are much less likely to be swayed by the group, providing a wealth of actionable, authentic insights that add a great deal of value for our clients.
Boomers and Seniors can be—and often are--underutilized; don’t be afraid to reach out for the benefit of your product or service.
One of the interesting things about Boomers and Seniors is the fact that they are often overlooked by many of today’s companies. They are a large population, with significant purchasing power, and are highly engaged in their interaction with the marketplace. That said, many companies run the risk of overlooking this group, as evidenced by the design and implementation of many products either targeted at them directly (products that categorize aging as undesirable or unflattering), or those that ignore their existence entirely (think smart phones and tablet computers). It’s important to remember that the aging populations in this country and around the world are larger than they’ve ever been, and they will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. With an interest in the market, the time to take stock of what’s going on around them and, in many cases, the income to react definitively to that knowledge, Doyle believes including Boomers and Seniors in research projects doesn’t just make good sense, it’s good business.