AARP Yawp: A Generation Still Ignored By Marketers


The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Some 77% of U.S. adults 50 years of age and older feel they are being ignored by advertisers.

That’s likely no different than what was seen 20 or 30 years ago. But, here’s the rub: The AARP generation is bigger than ever before and arguably more affluent than the millennial and Gen Z consumer so many marketers seem obsessed with.

The findings come straight out of The Age of Opportunity: Understanding The Consumer Value of Adults 50+, a new VAB guide for marketers.

Further, some 49% of this 50+ buying audience avoids brands that actively ignore them.

That’s bad news for marketers from a group of consumers that accounts for more than $3.2 trillion in aggregate annual expenditures and 41% of total U.S. consumer expenditures.


In the U.S., there are currently 114 million adults over the age of 50, comprising one-third of the population. This group also account for 45% of the adult population age 18 years and older. By 2020, the population of adults over 50 will have doubled in size since 1980, reflecting an increase of 60 million people. There will be over 42 million more adults over 50 than those 18 to 34 years of age by 2020. By 2030, that gap will increase to over 55 million.

Booming Buyers

The Age of Opportunity guide includes data identifying how many adults over 50 continually look for new, relevant products to purchase. There are more adults over 50 than millennials actively in the market for new goods and services, indicating their wallets are still up for grabs.

According to the VAB’s new guide, 56 million consumers over 50 are on the lookout for new products beneficial to them compared to 44.8 million millennials. Adults over 50 enjoy variety in the products they purchase (28.6 million) in slightly larger numbers than millennial buyers (28.1 million).

On average, older adults are responsible for 40% of the spending across top consumer categories, including: *

  • $195.5 billion (37%) on vehicles
  • $159.1 billion (36%) on food away from home
  • $110.2 billion (43%) on household furnishings and equipment
  • $33.9 billion (35%) on entertainment fees and admissions
  • $29.9 billion (41%) on alcohol

*Percentage share of total annual category spend by adults 55 years of age and older

Working Hard

Nearly half of adults over 50 (46%) are choosing to work later in life and now account for 34% of the U.S. workforce. The number of employed people over the age of 50 has also increased 21% since 2008. They have significant spending power, much greater than any other major age group, including millennials. The 50+ audience spending profile nearly mirrors that of adults ages 18 to 34 as heavy purchasers in many product categories due to their continued workplace income and enjoyment of an active lifestyle.

Playing Hard

In many ways, older adults are more active than older millennials (25 to 34 years), spending 56% more time participating in leisure activities and sports. They also outpace older millennials when it comes to caring for their homes, shopping and eating and drinking.

  • Adults 55+ spend 11% more time than older millennials eating and drinking
  • Adults 55+ spend 47% more time than older millennials maintaining their homes
  • Adults 55+ spend 22% more time than older millennials shopping

Avid Video Viewers

Older adults are also avid video consumers and enjoy TV content so much, they consider their favorite programs as “appointment viewing.” Seventy-five percent try to watch every new episode of their favorite TV program, with 58% setting aside time in their busy schedules to watch. Six out of 10 older adults say watching their favorite TV shows is their “me time.”

An increasing adoption of technology also presents a greater opportunity for advertisers to reach adults 50+ across a variety of devices:

  • 75% own a smartphone
  • 65% own a laptop
  • 61% own a desktop computer
  • 49% own a smart TV
  • 42% own a tablet

Almost eight out of 10 adults 50+ visit ad-supported TV-branded digital platforms that provide popular content across major genres, such as sports, news, business news, food, home, weather, comedy and kids programming.

“The spending power of those over age 50 is immense and will continue to grow in future years presenting an incredible opportunity for marketers,” said Marianne Vita, VAB’s vice president, strategic insights. “With their household income outpacing the national average over the past 20 years and their strong appetite for TV programming across multiple screens, U.S. adults over 50 are regularly looking for information about products and services to indulge their growing interests. Brand advertisers who ignore this audience, which totals over one-third of the U.S. population and makes over $3.2 trillion in yearly purchases, do so at their own peril.”

The Age of Opportunity: Understanding The Consumer Value of Adults 50+ VAB guide for marketers can be found here.