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Private Sector Interest in the Older Consumer

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Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

Why does the private sector of the economy have an interest in older adults? This lesson looks at elements that have influenced an increase in this interest over time.

Before the Older Americans Act

Imagine it's 1964 and you are 70 years old. You are concerned about your future and how you will live out your remaining years of life as independently as you can. Where do you turn for assistance?

In 1964, your options as an older adult were more limited than they are today. Your family members, local organizations, and religious communities may have been able to help you to some degree, but at the level of the federal government there was not yet a method to address your needs and those of others your age in a bigger way.

This lesson discusses how our thinking has evolved since that time, and how and why private sector interest in older consumers has grown over the years.

Administration on Aging

One year later, in 1965, then President Lyndon Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law, which began to address the lack of community services available to older adults. The Act made it possible for federal funds to be directed to states to address this concern and for more research into aging. In order to manage these funds and to act as a central resource, the Act also established the Administration on Aging.

Now an agency from your local community that had been helping out older adults like you in a smaller way would have a way to apply for money from the government to bolster their offerings to you. New services could emerge as well. As a 70-year-old living before the Act, you had fewer choices and rights to service, such as legal protection, health services, and long-term care. Since the Act, an awareness of your needs as an aging person became more relevant to nonprofit and government agencies.

The types of services funded through Administration on Aging programs can range in their focus, from a nutrition service that brings food to the homes of an older adult to an educational program that teaches a person how to avoid falls. Organizations can apply for grants that help to provide these and other services.

This interest in services for older adults has had a significant impact on the private sector. The private sector refers to organizations and businesses that are not directly overseen by the government. Businesses started to recognize the opportunity for profit in this area as well and began to market to your age range. Over the years, you would have started to receive fliers in the mail with advertisements for services designed for you, as an older person, from modifications you could make to your home to senior living facilities.

Baby Boomers

Aside from the Older Americans Act raising attention to the needs of older adults and providing funding, what has fueled the continued interest in services and products for older adults? One important element is the Baby Boomer generation. Baby Boomer is the name given to a person who was born between 1946 and 1964. This era was described as the Baby Boom because so many children were born during this period compared with other time periods.

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