Sports participation of the elderly will increase on the back of a rapidly ageing world population and a more active lifestyle of senior citizens. This asks for a targeted approach of federations and companies. We discuss 10 emerging super trends.
Don’t you love those rare occasions during which you see an 80 year old finishing a marathon. Those are exceptions which will become less exceptional in the future. The senior citizen of the future is likely to be much more healthy, in much better shape and above all much more active. Sports participation of the elderly is on the verge of showing accelerating growth.
World population is ageing rapidly
According to the United Nations, the global population aged 60 years or over, amounts to around 1 bln out of a total of 7.5 bln and is growing fast. You might say that this is still not an awful lot, but if you realise that this number amounted to only 382 mln in 1980 and will grow to nearly 2.1 bln by 2050, you might think differently. Undoubtedly the world population is ageing. Let me put it differently: in 2011 the number of people aged 65 years and older as a percentage of the total population amounted to 11.2%. This will grow to an astonishing 22% by 2050.
This enormous increase can be explained by two phenomena: a rising life expectancy and falling birth rates. Let me elaborate. A girl born in 1914 in England had a 1% chance of living to the age of 100. A child born in the west today has a more than 50 per cent chance of living to become over 105. That’s a significant difference, isn’t it? Moreover, simultaneously the birth rate is declining, which will also has a significant impact. Obviously, this will have huge implications for our future society. Not only will it change labor supply and social dynamics, it also will lead to much higher healthcare costs.
Senior citizens increasingly active in sports: from boomers to perennials
But there is more than just the ageing world population. At the same time sports participation of the elderly is fueled by the following present and future trends:
The wish for a longer life and a healthier lifestyle. Ageing in a healthy way (forever young!) is the new religion of the elderly and rightly so! There is increased awareness that movement and sports lead to reduced stress, obesity, fall risk, cholesterol and depression, whilst muscle mass is maintained and the immune system also will improve. Not surprisingly this leads to an improved lifestyle and lower health related risks.
Undoubtedly health insurance companies will start to incentivize sports participation of the elderly as this will reduce the general health bill. Such incentives should help in raising awareness amongst senior citizens to exercise more.
Older women are increasingly becoming active in sports. Whereas in the past women were relatively underrepresented in the mix, this gap will gradually be reduced.
The need for social cohesion. The average modern senior citizen no longer stays in retirement homes. They prefer to live their life for as long as possible in the security of their own homes. Nevertheless they still long for social cohesion. Sports fits the bill!
The generational impact. Last but not least, there is a generational impact. Whereas a large part of the boomer generation (the ones born just after worldwar two) is not active in sports as they were just not used to participate in it. In contrast, Generation X, which will soon start to become 60 years old, has been raised with sports and exercise. They like their sports and realise the importance of it.
Many call themselves “Perennials”. Perennial is defined as lasting or existing for a long or infinite time. These people do not regard themselves as old or retired, but are active and young at heart. It is a mindset and sports is fitting their lifestyles very well. This trend won’t go away, particularly as healthcare and our ability to remain active for a longer time will improve.
Combining all these trends and adding them to the enormous growth in the sheer number of senior citizens, it means that the number of people in this age bracket who will participate in sports will even grow faster.
So who are these active future senior citizens?
The senior citizens that will actively participate in sports may probably be best described as follows:
- They regard themselves as of all ages, are living in the present time, have friends of different ages and know what’s happening in the world
- They have an active lifestyle, whether it is meeting with friends, traveling or participating in sports and social events
- Financially they are very strong and have a lot of money to spend
- They are becoming increasingly tech savvy although not at the level of the younger generation
- They have plenty of spare time to be spend on leisure activities
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Companies and federations should grab the ‘elderly opportunity’
Companies and sports federations still are focusing too much on the consumer behaviour of the younger generations and are at risk of neglecting its traditional consumers. This is logical as the younger generations still represent a huge percentage of the total. However, as the group of elderly will become bigger, no doubt companies and federations will grab the opportunity to also target this group. Governments and insurance companies will stimulate and push sports participation of the elderly, which will stimulate a targeted approach.
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New trends will emerge
On the back of this trend of sports participation of the elderly, new trends are likely to emerge. Some trends we can expect are:
- An increase in the number of products specifically made for the elderly
- Health insurance companies and governments are likely to stimulate sports participation of the elderly and might start to incentivize this
- Technology will start to play a bigger role. The future modern senior citizen will be much more tech savvy. In this perspective E-health and sports participation of the elderly will go hand in hand. Expect wearables, sensors (also in smart textiles), voice technology and easy apps specifically made for seniors tracking both health and fitness parameters
- Sports- and fitnessclubs and federations will increasingly target senior citizens. As the elderly often play sports at times the other generations are working, they form a great opportunity to improve utilisation levels of sports facilities and hence increase revenues.
- Expect senior playgrounds, places made specifically for the older generation
- Artificial Intelligence will start to play a bigger role in the future. As wearables and sensors will collect a wide variety of data, algoritms will determine specific tailor made programs for senior citizens.
- Individual sports such as the usual suspects golf, fitness, cycling, walking, cross country, yoga etc will gain in popularity amongst the elderly
- Expect several team sports to become more popular, but adjusted to this specific agegroup. A good example is walking football
- More senior games and senior world championships are likely to be organized
- New senior social platforms will emerge. These platforms will provide specific information and education related to health and sports for senior citizens with a healthy lifestyle. They will also offer the opportunity for social engagement
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This all might still take some time but undoubtedly the Perennial lifestyle will gain popularity in our society. It is a no brainer: sports participation of the elderly will increase. It offers a unique opportunity for sports federations and the sports industry to raise sports participation of the elderly and opens a new revenue stream. If you have any ideas, I would love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts.