Demographics is Destiny

Smart Companies and Communities Should be Planning for the 'Aging of Ohio'

In politics it has long been an adage that “demographics is destiny,” which has spawned such targeted voter groups as “Soccer Moms and NASCAR Dads.” Wise marketers, of course, have long used demographics to tailor their messages to the right audiences.

That is why recent studies and reports regarding the dramatic population shift occurring in Ohio should be of critical importance to those wishing to curry favor, win support or sell products and/or services in the state.

To cut to the chase – Ohio is an older state about to be become considerably “more gray” in the next few decades.

“Ohio has the sixth largest older population in the country,” according to Dr. Robert Applebaum, director of the Ohio long-term care research at the nationally renowned Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University in Oxford.

And the number of elder residents will grow considerably in the coming years.

“Between now and 2040, the overall state population is projected to grow only about 2 percent,” said Applebaum, “which is relatively stable, but the older population is expected to grow by 50 percent.”

The numbers look like this:

  • In 2000, there were 1.5 million Ohioans 65 and older
  • In 2020, there will be 2.1 million
  • In 2040, there will be 2.8 million, with 20 % over the age of 85

The Scripps Center has published detailed maps showing the population shifts by decade and color-coding each county as the projected change takes place. As the population ages, the county grows increasingly “red.” What’s most startling is almost the entire state is “red” by 2040, with the cities hosting major universities (with a lot of young transient residents) being the notable exception.

Smart cities and companies have been planning for this “boomer tsunami.” In fact, Ohio’s consumer giant, Procter & Gamble, has been working along with other major corporations for a number of years through the LiveWell Collaborative at the University of Cincinnati, to specifically meet the needs of the boomer generation.

“The world has never before seen such a powerful market,” the school noted.

Some changes are very subtle, such as traffic signals that count down the seconds you have to safely cross the street, buses that “kneel” and are easier to enter and exit, and brands smartly enlarging the font on packaging and labels.

Other changes will be much more significant. And the good news is that some programs, such as the Columbus suburb of Dublin’s Bridge Street project address things desirable to all age groups, such as walkable communities, better transit and closer shopping.

 

Much attention has been properly paid recently to the emergence of Millennials as the largest single demographic sector with growing purchasing power. But as Generation Xers age and Baby Boomers live longer, marketers need to pay attention.

In the next five years, half of the U.S. adult population will be 50 and older and will control 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income, according to Nielsen research.

Procter & Gamble and other major corporations know that ignoring demographics can be perilous and while changing target audiences can be tricky, it’s important to use data and not just desire as future plans are developed.

 

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