Advertising Senior Advertising

CIRCA\46 Suggests to Not Overlook Gen-X When Marketing to Seniors

Written by Slingshot

While the world tends to be preoccupied with Baby Boomers and Millennials, the first Gen-Xers will quietly begin turning sixty in 2025.

We don’t think much about Gen-X, sandwiched between the Boomer and Millennial cohorts. They are kind of like an overlooked middle child. There aren’t as many Gen-Xers (born 1965-1980) as the other cohorts. They have been labeled the “Forgotten Generation,” the “Lost Generation,” the “Invisible Generation.” Maybe most appropriately, they were the “Latchkey Generation,” because Gen-Xers were the first generation to experience the downside of dual-income households, which – combined with a 40% divorce rate among their parents – resulted in many adolescent Gen-Xers returning to empty homes after school each afternoon to wait for a working parent to arrive.

Strongly influenced by their life experience, the Gen-X cohort exhibits a world-weariness and political apathy that led to their “slacker” image. After all, the one message Gen-Xers consistently heard while growing up was: What you do with your life is up to you; and if you get into trouble, it’s up to you to fix it.

Three Areas Where Gen-Xers Differ from Boomers

As we look ahead to this next generation of aging Americans, it is clear Gen-Xers differ from Boomers in terms of Family, Finance, and Health:

1. Family

In reaction to their parents, who knowingly or unknowingly sacrificed their families to chase wealth, “family” is a vitally important priority for most Gen-Xers. In fact, 47% identify “family” as their highest priority – ahead of careers, health, finances, or other relationships[1]. And 66% are completely satisfied with their family life.[2]

2. Finance

The Gen-X cohort is on track to be the first generation in history that will be worse off than their parents in terms of being prepared for retirement. Their current annual household income is significantly lower than what Boomers enjoyed at the same age. This is compounded by the fact that they are being left with what is presently a $35-trillion national debt[3], with the government presently borrowing an additional $8.5-billion a day.[4] Add to these factors the fact that Social Security and Medicare will eventually go bankrupt if benefit reductions and/or higher taxes are not made, and it is clear that Boomers are leaving Gen-Xers holding the proverbial bag!

3. Health

Not unexpectedly, Gen-Xers are more satisfied about the status of their health versus the older Boomer cohort (48% Very/Completely Satisfied versus Boomers at 40.5%). After all, they are younger. However, that isn’t translated to healthier behaviors. Boomers tend to eat more nutritiously (67% vs. 58%), exercise more (60% vs. 57%) and get more sleep (64% vs. 53%). Furthermore, Gen-Xers appear to experience greater stresses of life than Boomers, ranging from finances (51% vs. 37%) to career (42% vs. 19%) to mental health (34% vs. 16%).[5]

Helping Gen-X Transition Into Elderhood

Gen-Xers are certainly not aged at this time, but they are beginning to move in that direction. So how should marketers approach them as they begin to age?

  • First, many Gen-Xers are at a stage in life where they are caregivers for aging parents or young children – or both! Tabbed the “Sandwich Generation,” this segment of the Gen-X cohort is under extreme stress – physically and financially – to care for loved ones.
    • The average amount of time a Sandwich Generation caregiver commits to caregiving is roughly 24 hours a week.[6] Ultimately, there are three overriding needs Gen-Xers in this situation crave to address:
      • Relief of physical and emotional stress caused by the burdens of caring for their children and aging parents, ranging from fatigue and sleeplessness to fear and anxiety.
      • Relief from financial demands attached to supporting and caring for children and parents, including both out-of-pocket expenses and often tasks related to managing the loved one’s general financial affairs.
      • Relief from depression that can arise out of stress and financial hardship.
    • Any product or service that can be positioned to offer relief for any of these three needs will be valued by an overworked, overstressed Gen-X caregiver.
  • Second, Gen-Xers are painfully aware of the financial crises ahead of them. But most have not done much to address the coming crisis. This creates an opportunity for modest-cost financial products that can help Gen-Xers prepare for retirement. Granted there are that many Gen-Xers who are not in a position financially to invest in their future financial security. Still, there are many who are in a position to begin or expand their retirement savings.
  • Third, recognize that Gen-Xers are entering a stage in life where they will begin to experience declines in their senses. Vision will begin to decline. Hearing will begin to decline. Physical declines will begin to be noticed. Memory will decline. These are all parts of aging that accelerate after one turns sixty.
    • While many of these declines will not affect most Gen-Xers’ receipt of marketing communications immediately, marketers will be well served to consider these coming changes as they craft their advertising. There is nothing “wrong” about making messaging easy to receive. When advertising to older adults, “clarity” is more important than cleverness.

Gen-X is turning sixty. Like it or not, they will have to face aging, just like Boomers. Marketers should recognize how Gen-Xers are like the Boomer generation, as well as how they differ.

But just like Boomers, they will age on their own terms.


About the author


Slingshot is an independent advertising and marketing agency in Dallas, Texas. We firmly believe that Human connections create growth™ and that no business can realize the growth it needs without connecting with the right people to fuel it. So we like to dig in with our clients. Because when we connect, we learn, we form an understanding and we grow.