These days, we can repeatedly hear news that aging problems are getting worse as time proceeds. In a rapidly aging society, there has been constant discussion on how the elderly can act accordingly. In the past, there was a primarily negative view of recognizing aging as a serious social problem. However, going against the past perception that aged people are mostly weak and lethargic social members, a new concept of the “New Senior Generation” has emerged.
“Generation 58”, the most economi- cally powerful consumers who are at the age of retirement, is now being highly regarded as noteworthy consumers. In addition to their consumptive power, they are also starting secondary lives by showing off their accumulated competitive experience, expertise and networks in various fields. It is predicted that members of “Generation 58”, who become accustomed to using the internet will re-vitalize a stagnant market. Recently, the market has tried to target the senior class as its new consumer force.
Generation 58, Who Are They?
Generation 58 mainly refers to those in their 50s and 60s and is also well known as the “New Senior Generation”. These people are also the part of the baby boomer generation: people who are willing to spend time and money enjoying their lives based on the wealth they can afford. Among people aged 50 or older, “Active Seniors” are estimated to account for less than 20 percent of the population. In a 2015 report from the Korea Media Panel Survey , the Institute for Information and Communication Policy classified only about 16 percent of people aged 50 or older as active seniors. According to the survey, the percentage of people classified as active seniors tends to decrease as the age group becomes older.
People in their 50s and 60s are showing a relatively similar proportion in the survey. This is because they all have the “generational trait” of baby boomers. Baby boomers, who were born right after the Korean War, are more educated and open-minded to accept a new culture than people older than them. Baby boomers also have much stronger individualistic tendencies compared to the previous generation. This has been represented by baby boomers’ active inclination to spend time and money for themselves, not only for their family or friends. Therefore, it can be interpreted as a relatively natural phenomenon that this generation has a higher active senior ratio than the previous generation does.
Aging Society and “Generation 58”
Choi Hee-jung, a Professor in the Department of Consumer Family Studies at Sungkyunkwan University, said “The aging of the population directly leads to a decrease in the production population, which scholars predict will cause the elderly to be forced to pay taxes by actively participating in production activities instead of short-lived production population. Therefore, in order to prepare for a rapidly aging society, the retirement age should be extended like other developed countries. In addition, more quality jobs suitable for them should be created, but I think it is not easy to be realized due to other complex problems such as youth unemployment.” Professor Choi added that “The downside of population aging is largely based on the assumption that ‘old people do not work or cannot work’, which is overlooked by the fact that many old people are engaging in productive activities. Taking care of grandchildren is a good example, as many elders are working for childcare services. According to data from the Korean Labor Institute, the Labor Market Trend Report showed that the economic participation rate of people in their late 60s and older was 46.9 percent as of 2017. We can see that a substantial number of the elderly are trying to engage in productive activities.”
The Samsung Economic Research Institute predicted that its consumer market will reach around 125 trillion won by 2020 when active seniors enter the silver tier in earnest, a result that proves why Generation 58 is receiving great attention. Although business targeting active seniors would grow more slowly than expected, its potential seems huge because people currently in their 50s, who will lead senior consumption in the future, have great potential.
Active Seniors Around Us
According to the 2015 Trend and Consumer Analysis Data by the Korea Broadcasting Advertising Promotion Agency, the average monthly card uses by active seniors are 1.77 million won, much higher than those of people in their 30s and 40s. This indicates that they are actively engaged in consumption behavior. In the marketplace, many products targeting Generation 58 are launched, such as travel packages.
Jung Sang-gen, a Representative of Travel University, Yanolja’s affiliate, is in charge of the “Senior Dreaming Traveler Course”. He said, “Looking at Korea, which entered an aged society faster than expected, swift measures on the economic, social, and cultural aspects of the elderly are necessary. With the increasing number of active seniors who gradually enjoy leisure activities in our society, the course is opened to help them design and experience more productive and free travel. By using the concepts of ‘school’ and ‘community’, we could systemize the elderly-customized travel education program. It is not a one- time event, which also contains a direct participation service and feedback. The biggest advantage of this course is that we fully support all costs.”
Representative Jung added that “The New Senior generation has different social and cultural backgrounds compared to the previous generation thanks to their wider range of experiences. They are relatively active and have a strong desire for self-development and being healthy. The Senior Dreaming Traveler Course helps them not only to design the leisure activities they want, but also to find interest in outdoor activities and seek new careers related to travel. By introducing programs that combined education and travel with existing leisure programs, we aimed to change perception towards the elderly into active participants. Moreover, this program will ultimately activate the tourism industry by expanding active seniors’ tourism and will practically support them by combining tourism activities and lifelong education.”
As social activities of the New Senior Generation become more widespread, many efforts are being made to develop the culture for their joy. For example, Hanyang University’s Future Institute for Human Resources Development opened a “Young Senior Model Acting Program” from this November to follow the social trend. The curriculum provides education for people over 35.
Park Yoon-seop, who is working as a Senior Model at TSP Model Agency said, “There was nothing that I wanted to challenge before being a senior model. However, I have become interested in the senior model field, after hearing the story of Kim Chil-doo who is acting as a senior model. In addition, after being a person in his 60s and looking around, I found that people who could afford cultural activities were actively enjoying them, while others were relatively not. It is not confined to senior citizens. I think young people are the same.”
Aging will steadily continue, and it is almost certain that the elderly are likely to be active as important members of society. Therefore, we should understand their desires and develop an industry or culture for the next “New Senior Generation”. Various programs should be prepared based on deep understanding characteristics of the elderly, and conditions for leisure activities should also be improved. By creating such social atmosphere, we expect that all individuals will be able to enjoy their lives with high- quality and it will ultimately bring great benefits to our society.