Census reveals Surprising Trends in Eldercare

More men than ever expected to assume caregiving roles

Boomer men as caregiversBy Nina Dunn, Spector & Associates, 6/01/2011

Most figures from the 2010 census were no surprise to anyone in the elder care industry. According to the data released last week, the population aged 45 to 64 (also referred as baby boomers) grew more than 30 percent, up to 81.5 million people. This generation now makes up more than 26 percent of the total U.S. population. The numbers proved what many in our industry already suspected: that our nation is rapidly growing older.

More interesting data came from the census report Age and Sex Composition: 2010. Thanks to advances in healthcare and medicine, the male population grew faster than the female population, particularly in the 60-plus age group: the number of men increased by 35.2 percent as opposed to just 29.2 percent for women in the same age group. This narrowed the male-female ratio among mature adults.

Census 2010 figures reflect the social changes that we will face in coming years, as the life expectancy of men will reach that of women. This gender balance among mature adults is expected to influence not only family relations and caregiving expectations, but also the way elder care companies market their products and services to this population.

We can expect that more men will become involved in caregiving for their aging parents and, as they age, the large number of male baby boomers will require some type of assistance themselves. In the coming years, many senior care companies will be forced to reconsider their target audiences and their messaging as men become more prominent both as caregivers and care receivers.

Boomer men as caregivers

For a long time, caretaking has been viewed primarily as a female role, however, the 2010 Census shows that this stereotype is changing. The number of male caregivers has already risen from 19 percent in 1996 to almost 40 percent in 2009, and the number will continue to increase, narrowing the gap between female and male caregivers.

Marketers in the elder care industry must recognize that men and women approach caregiving responsibilities differently. Men often feel uncomfortable performing hands-on caregiving duties, particularly for their mothers, and prefer to delegate daily tasks to outside services.

In addition, largely due to societal expectations, men struggle to share their experiences with — and receive support from — colleagues and friends. Unaccustomed to dealing with welfare agencies and community support groups, where female-centric content often discourages male participation, men go online to search for information and solutions. This creates a perfect opportunity to connect with male caregivers through effective digital strategies, reaching them where they are open for communication and more receptive to direct messaging.

If an elder care company wants to position itself in this growing market, it will need to adjust. For example, men are known to value individuality and be visually oriented. With this in mind, changing the color scheme and image themes on your website and offering personalized services will make a brand more attractive to men.

Also, keep in mind that men are not browsers, so don’t bury your key selling propositions deep inside your website. Supported by a strategic and well-executed marketing campaign, easy changes like these will make your website and overall brand more relatable to boomer men.

As mature men age

This year the first wave of baby boomers — America’s largest consumer group — is reaching their 65th birthday. Earning more than their female counterparts, boomer men will enter retirement with higher private pensions and 401 (K)s, making them a more attractive audience for savvy elder care agencies.

Accounting for over $1 trillion spending yearly, boomer men are willing to spend money on new technologies that will allow them to age safely and remain independent for as long as possible. Unwilling to accept status quo inherited from previous generations, boomer men will redefine traditional elder care options, exploring alternative retirement plans that promote mobility, wellness and social interactivity. We can expect that in the next decade companies that cater to these needs will enjoy additional sources of revenue.

As boomer men age, they will assume new roles as caretakers and, later, as care recipients. Elder care companies who are looking for effective sales strategies should consider redirecting their efforts and focusing their marketing initiatives on this demographic group that can bring unprecedented profits. In addition, businesses that can connect with boomer men will be able to benefit from a client base with a high disposable income and increased longevity.

Nina Dunn is a communications and media relations expert at Spector & Associates , a New York-based public relations firm specializing in health care and technology. In her current role, Nina works with the agency’s elder care and pharmaceutical clients, helping them develop effective thought leadership campaigns and communications strategies. You can reach her at Nina@spectorpr.com.