04 Seniors: who are they?

“Senior” is a subjective term and their is no officially agreed definition. It is used in various fields to describe highly disparate age ranges. In most sports, the seniors class sits between the juniors and the veterans, and generally includes 20 to 45 year olds. In the professional sphere, human resources departments place the lower limit of the senior category at 45 or 50, depending on the country. As for government policy, 60 is the age usually mentioned when the notion of seniors is broached in legislation. In the medical world, 70 is generally considered the age at which health issues begin to accumulate.

Meanwhile, sociologists have pointed out the advantages of reasoning in terms of people’s life cycles. After childhood and a period of higher education comes the time to establish a home and start building a career, either alone or with a partner (these stages may or may not coincide). Then comes a phase during which individuals actively mature (living as a couple, having children, greater professional stability, etc.). Around the age of 50, their now grown-up children begin, in turn, to leave the family home. In the professional world, this phase of life is synonymous with seniority. Health problems become more frequent. People’s expectations and lifestyles must be adjusted to their new needs. Then comes the tipping point of retirement, the age of which varies according to the country and the sector. Lifestyles are restructured around new activities or demands, sometimes linked to elderly parents and sometimes to grandchildren. This can even involve a move to a new region. This highly active period gradually wanes. The pace of life slows down after the age of 75 as the effects of ageing begin to take their toll, before often becoming debilitating around the ages of 80 to 85. This is the start of a final phase for our elders, who must now deal with the gradual loss of their self-sufficiency. While there is no universal time line that applies to all Europeans, these stages more or less define people’s life stories.

The objective for L’Observatoire Cetelem 2016 was to examine the lifestyles, expectations and spending habits of working seniors and retired seniors alike. While they do not fall into a homogeneous category, these two age groups – 50 to 59 year olds and 60 to 75 year olds – form an ever larger population of consumers with either a great deal of spending power or a large amount of spare time.

Europe will need to adapt to an unprecedented trend. Over 65s will be the largest age group by 2050, accounting for around 30 % of the population, a figure that stood at around 10 % in 1960. Their sheer number and the pre-eminence of their expectations require us to reassess the stakes of the Silver Economy. This is a groundswell that will affect every sector, from transport and healthcare, to leisure, housing and food.
A significant proportion of these consumers were born during the baby boom. They entered adult life when our “consumer society” began to truly gain ground. The changes they are now experiencing are due not only to their position in the cycle of life, but also to a wholesale shift in our day-to-day behaviours. After triggering a revolution in the world of communication, digital technology is now transforming objects and services, and shaking the very foundations of the economy, with the ever growing “uberisation” phenomenon. L’Observatoire Cetelem was duty bound to analyse these vibrant consumers and their strong appetite for spending, with a focus on one essential question: what sort of consumers have the children of the consumer society become?

77 % of seniors 23 % of seniors
Age group 50 to 59 year olds 60 to 74 year olds 75 to 84 year olds Over 85 year olds
Number of consumers (scope: Euro 28) 70 million 80 million 33 million 12 million
Number of consumers (scope: countries of L’Observatoire Cetelem) 59 million 67 million 28 million 10.5 million

Source: Eurostat

50 to 59 year olds

WORKING SENIORS
50 to 59 year olds represent 14 % of the population of L’Observatoire Cetelem countries. They are overrepresented in Germany and Poland. (source: Eurostat)
The vast majority are members of the active population, with only 2 % having retired.
They earn an average of €20,400 a year, 12 % more than the average for the population. (source: Eurostat)
The average unemployment rate stands at 7 % (compared with 4 % in 2008; source: OECD).
43 % still have children living at home.
Overall, they are more pessimistic about their personal circumstances, with an average score of 5.2 (compared with 5.6 for the population as a whole).
32 % are considering saving more over the next 12 months, while 33 % are planning to spend more.
Two-thirds (66 %) own their home and 40 % still have a mortgage to repay.
21 % have taken out a consumer loan over the last 12 months.

60 to 75 year olds

PRE-RETIREES AND RETIREES
60 to 75 year olds represent 16 % of the population of L’Observatoire Cetelem countries. They are overrepresented in Germany, Italy and Denmark. (source: Eurostat)
Half of them state that they are still active (50 %), the other half that they are retired (50 %).
They earn an average of €19,200 a year, 5 % more than the average for the population. (source: Eurostat)
17 % still have children living at home.
They are more optimistic about their personal circumstances, with an average score of 6.0 (compared with 5.6 for the population as a whole).
29 % are considering saving more over the next 12 months, while 32 % are planning to spend more.
More than two-thirds (68 %) own their home and 20 % still have a mortgage to repay.
18 % have taken out a consumer loan over the last 12 months.
Other source: L’Observatoire Cetelem de la Consommation 2016.