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Are Seniors the True Engine of Our Economy?

If all you read were the business headlines, you would think Millennials are the biggest and best thing going in the American economy. Everyone seems to be talking about how to market to Millennials, and employers are adapting everything from dress codes to standards of work-life balance for younger workers.

Yet beyond the headlines, seniors—particularly older Baby Boomers—continue to play a powerful role in the American economy. As employees and as consumers, senior citizens simultaneously are holding down the fort and blazing new trails to re-define the nature of aging.

Here are three powerful roles seniors play in today’s economy:

1. Older workers are our company historians.

In any given company, older employees more often than not have the longest tenure, which means they remember that time in the late 1980s when so-and-so in accounting switched over the record-keeping process—and why that change was for the better. Large corporations are notorious for having serious communications gaps. As long-serving employees, seniors are often the glue that helps bridge those gaps—providing much-needed wisdom and experience.

2. Seniors drive much of our consumer spending.

Numerous marketing analyses suggest that AARP-eligible Americans account for 50 percent or more of consumer spending. Hollywood superhero flicks may be geared toward the young, but marketers of nearly anything else would do well to pay attention to what seniors want. Today’s seniors ushered in an era of post-war American prosperity and consumer spending, and they continue to drive product development and consumer tastes.

3. Seniors are trailblazers in aging.

It used to be said that 40 is the new 30. These days, 70 is the new 60—and perhaps 80 is the new 70. Because Americans are living longer, healthier lives, seniors are staying active longer than ever before. And this fact is driving a number of innovations, from advances in health care to changes in senior living.

At Bethesda, we’ve seen many of these changes in real time, as we’ve been in the senior living industry for nearly 60 years. Sixty years ago, seniors declined rapidly and transitioned quickly from the mobility of late middle age to the nursing home. Today, nursing homes seem like something of the past, because seniors are living much more vibrant lives than they did half a century ago.

Today’s seniors may need assistance as they age, but they are still able to experience full and socially engaged lives. Successful senior living communities recognize this new paradigm and offer a wealth of activities, from dining services to fitness programs to cultural outings. Now is a great time to be a senior—and to serve seniors in the assisted living industry.