China has the world’s biggest population, of which baby boomers and millennials are the dominant demographic groups and thus contribute significantly to economic growth. As brands slug it out to win over the younger generation in China, they seem to have forgotten the other demographic that has more free time and bigger wallets – active seniors.

In fact, the age of China’s active seniors perfectly overlap with baby boomers, who were born between 1949 and 1964, and are now aged from 55 to 70 years old. The youngest age one can retire in China is 55 for females and 60 for males, which means they’ll be more “independent” and remain active for longer. Also, trends have shown that Chinese grandparents now intend to focus more on enjoying their own lives, rather than simply taking care of their grandchildren.  This presents a massive opportunity for brands. That is, if they can accurately determine what kind of lifestyles active seniors want and how they will behave.

Pursuing active lifestyles

Many Chinese people may believe that the elderly live quite frugally, but in fact their purchasing power and pursuit of pleasure in their own lives are much stronger than we think. Among senior tourists, those from Shanghai tend to spend more on ensuring they enjoy a high-quality tour experience, resulting in an average expenditure exceeding RMB5,000 per person, the largest amount among elderly tourists. In 2020, China’s senior population of people aged 60 and over will reach 255 million and their total expenditure is expected to be RMB7.01 trillion. At H+K China, we’ve helped a variety of brands across the entire tourism and travel value chain to engage with these active senior epicureans.

When they are travelling, active seniors prefer hitting the road with friends of the same age. Take the new product category released by Ctrip (China’s largest Online Travel Agent or OTA) called ‘Don’t Join Tour Groups With Strangers’ as an example. It became one of the most popular package tour products in 2018, when bookings of such tours more than doubled. Active seniors can choose different packages based on what their group wants to do, enjoying time together just as if they were participating in a class reunion.

It also reveals another insight into this group – they seek out connections with like-minded people who share the same values and interests. At the H+K Shanghai office, we recently helped Lendlease (an Australian developer) to unveil its very first senior living community in China, a project that aims to provide an open community experience for active seniors and allowing them to connect with people and nature. The community and the workshops that are held within on a range of hobbies and pastimes are developed based on this in-depth insight and thus creates more connections for these active “artists”.

Elderly, but still digital savvy

Chinese active seniors place strong demands on social media, among which they are most familiar with WeChat. On average they spend 1 hour 37 minutes on WeChat every day (just 49 minutes less than young people) and they spend that time discussing their daily lives, hobbies and tour information with their friends. They are also keen on participating in various online and offline activities and interactions. According to data from Ctrip.com, 51% of ‘new seniors’ make their plans and book through OTAs, which is an increase of 16 percentage points compared with 35% in 2016.

Data from Alibaba indicates that the national population of over 50s with strong spending power is huge, reaching nearly 30 million on Taobao and Tmall alone. Moreover, consumers in their 50s spend as much as RMB5,000 per capita on online shopping every year. Data from another OTA Lvmama.com shows that in 2018, the average length of travel for tourism among older people was five days, with each person spending an average of over RMB3,600.

Riding on this digital wave among active seniors, a variety of online influencers targeting senior lifestyles have emerged and risen to prominence. Among them are platforms that only target so-called ‘unique tribes,’ like those people that enjoy painting and fashion modeling for seniors. This has added resonance among China’s active seniors and also creates more content opportunities which brands can use to engage them.

Five key takeaways for brands looking to target active seniors in China:

  1. Chinese seniors are willing to spend more for quality.
  2. The rate of their online spending is increasing rapidly.
  3. This age group seeks connections with like-minded people who share their values and interests.
  4. WeChat is the most popular social media choice for Chinese active seniors, though they are also familiar other platforms.
  5. A new wave of influencers have recently emerged to target senior lifestyles and specific interests.

For brands operating in China, gaining trust from active seniors will win for the next 10 years.