Population aging is a global reality. According to projections by the U.N. Population Division, in 2022 the elderly (60+) represented 13.9% of the world’s total population, and will tend to grow year on year. Latin America has the fastest aging population. In Brazil, the silver generation, which in the same year represented 14% of the population, around 28.5 million people, is expected to reach 30% of the Brazilian population, by 2050, when there will be more elderly people than the population up to the age of 14. It is estimated that we will be the fifth oldest country in the world!
Contrary to the image that generally persists in Brazilian society, the silver population is increasingly active. 62% of those interviewed in the study Tsunami60+ , carried out in Brazil, reported being physically and mentally well; 59% of those interviewed between the ages of 55 and 64 claim to be active. They are using technology, going out, traveling, dating, marrying and remarrying, working, undertaking, studying, playing sports, going on adventures…, a truly active aging.
In addition, the same study reports that the 6silver economy generates around R$1.6 tri/year, representing 20% of the country’s total consumption.
Therefore, it is undeniable that the long-lived population is growing, is more active, seeks entertainment activities, including travels, and is an important consumer.
Is this a cause for concern or celebration? A bit of both. In fact, all of society’s segments need and must prepare themselves to relate to and meet the demands of this public. A broad market is opening up to offer the silver generation services, jobs, products, conditions and opportunities for a healthy, active and happy aging.
So what’s missing for a greater appreciation of the 60+ tourism?
The same Tsunami 60+ study, already mentioned, identified that “traveling is everyone’s dream – regardless of age group or social class. For 79% of the long-lived people interviewed, travel symbolizes the imagery of retirement”. However, the study recorded a demand for travel of only 36%. What could be the reason for such low demand, given the great desire?
It seems to us that there is a persistent social understanding, especially by tourism institutions, that the elderly like to stay at home and, on rare occasions, travel with their families or groups of friends, prefer quiet destinations such as mineral water resorts and religious trips. Not that these destinations are not of interest too, but today, due to the very diversity of the silver generation, there are many different desires.
Perhaps this understanding – based on the “old elderly” and not the “new elderly” – has led the tourist trade to fail to realize, firstly, that the senior population is growing and that the elderly will in a very short time represent a large portion of the country, who today already have a significant participation in the national consumption, as shown above.
Secondly, they may not have been aware of the social transformation and the studies showing a mature population, most of whom are active, with many wishes and using their life time and health to fulfill their dreams, reinvent themselves and seek entertainment activities, including travel. We need to update our view towards aging.
Challenges and opportunities
It’s important to reflect that the silver generation, 55 to 90+, is not a homogeneous category. It is a diverse population and, therefore, has varied dreams, wishes, tastes, abilities, possibilities, styles, interests and needs.
The senior public includes people in excellent health and others with reduced mobility, disabilities and limitations. It is a population with different financial possibilities, cultural and social levels, varied relationship arrangements, living alone, with relatives or friends. It is of utmost importance to get to know and segment the senior public in order to understand their demands and desires, in terms of tourism, so that everyone is included. In addition to being a challenge, it is also a huge opportunity, as we envisage the range of options the tourist trade can develop and offer the long-lived individuals.
Although the studies referred to here show that the silver generation generally has more money, more spending power and more free time, making it an excellent audience for tourist destinations, we are still experiencing the invisibility of the long-lived population, as 7expressed by 54% of those surveyed, aged over 55, who do not feel represented by the media or seen by brands and companies, in marketing campaigns, including destinations. This is another great opportunity for the industry: to give older people visibility and identification with attractions and destinations, promoting them with photos of real older people enjoying different experiences.
Contact with nature, socializing, friendships, intergenerational relationships, new learning and experiences are being acclaimed by scholars as a path to happiness, health and longevity. Some authors are arguing that 8“Tourism is the Happiness Industry”. Once again, tourism is the key to all these opportunities and can be an excellent ally in active aging, as well as for the physical and emotional health of long-lived individuals.
The future of Over 60 tourism
In conclusion, tourism practices ought to be in line with the new view of aging, destroying stereotypes and demystifying the idea that the elderly only like quiet activities, soap operas, excursions, that they do not know how to use their cell phones or watch anything on the computer. It is essential to value their potential, to get to know them and to segment this population, creating products that meet different needs and characteristics so that there is, actually, respect for diversity.
Attractions, accommodations, communication, accessibility and safety have to be adapted so as to meet the needs of the silver generation.
It is essential to promote products with images of real elderly people in the destinations, creating identification between the long-lived people and the product.
It is important to create teams with intergenerational representation as well as to train people to deal with the peculiarities of the senior public.
The tourist trade has a strategic moment in hand to expand and consolidate its business by adopting, valuing and building the 60+ tourism.
“Understanding the universe of silver business could increasingly define the success or failure of 21st Century ventures.” FDC – Longevity, 2020.
The opinions expressed in this text are the author’s opinion and do not necessarily reflect the position of WTM Latin America.
6 Silver economy: refers to the participation of the silver generation, i.e. older people aged over 55/60, in the country’s general consumption, whether in food, housing, shopping in general, leisure activities, recreation, travels, among others. The word silver comes from the color of the hair of this age group.
7 Tsunami Prateado 2021
8 LEE ET AL, 2021. Quoted by Dr. Carla Furtado, Director of @feliciencia Institute at the II Inspira Turismo MS, SEBRAE/MS. Lecture Happiness is Back, May, 2023.
Note: After retiring, Lilian Azevedo(67) and Sylvia Yano(65) created the blogs ‘Uma Senhora Viagem’ (Such a Travel) and ‘Sentidos do Viajar’ (Reasons for Traveling), respectively. Both are producers of the Podcast ‘Viajantes Bem Vividas’ (Seasoned Travelers), aimed at women, especially 60+ women. Speakers, experienced travelers both in Brazil and around the world, sensitive to the needs of the silver generation, their purpose is to share their travel experiences, inspiring the long-lived to discover travel as a path to an active and happy aging, as well as encouraging the tourism trade to adapt their products targeting this population segment.