The over-50s have the real voting and spending power — so why are we so obsessed with youth?

They are the wealthiest, happiest, most spendthrift and politically engaged of all age groups

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The Independent Online

Which group of people nearly always vote in general elections? In which demographic group has nearly half switched party allegiance during their voting lives?  Among whom do 34 per cent say they are currently undecided between the parties?

It is of course the same demographic that already controls 79 per cent of disposable wealth in the UK, that will constitute 50 per cent of the population by the year 2020, and by the way is having more fun than the rest of you put together: step forward the 50+ generation, the age group that Government and big business forgot

In a political environment which is focused on giving 16 year-olds the vote, and in a business climate where marketers continue to be obsessed with targeting “millennials” or 16-34 year-olds, the age group with the real voting and spending power continues to be inexplicably ignored.

The 50+ Project, a new survey undertaken by Research Now for the 50+ lifestyle brand High50, has revealed that people over 50 form the wealthiest, happiest, most spendthrift and politically engaged of all age groups.

Perhaps it’s not a surprise that 52 per cent of them feel that Britain should stay in the EU, or that 49 per cent believe a quota on immigration should be introduced, but nearly a third (27 per cent) feel immigration should be stopped altogether!

There is mileage from UKIP here a-plenty. Not least because so many say they are floating voters, who have actually become more politically engaged since the last election and are actually more politically engaged than they ever have been in life. And, as 85 per cent claim they always or nearly always vote, and the turnout at the last three general elections is between 60 per cent and 65 per cent, that means a hell of a lot of young people are not voting.

A hell of a lot of young people are also not spending very much money for the very simple reason that they haven’t got any. News reports only this week talked of a 15-year cycle of relative poverty for Britain’s young. Meanwhile our 50+ generation is reaping the rewards of being able to buy a house at three and a half times annual salary and then sit on it and watch its value soar.

So, as our young are squeezed, 42 per cent of 50+ say they have more disposable income than ever – even if 41 per cent don’t think they will have an adequate pension. Their answer is to spend it now and worry later. Some 67 per cent of those surveyed say they will spend their wealth rather than save it for their children. And 24 per cent are going to follow the Sting path and leave little or nothing to their children at all.

Many (30 per cent) still pay for their adult children to come on holiday with them, and over half take more than three holidays per year. Half drink more than three times a week and 40 per cent go out socially more than once a week. Some 20 per cent think they even have a better social life than their children.

The author pictured in younger days


With 38 per cent having sex more than twice a week and 1 in three singles having tried online dating, small wonder then that 41 per cent claim they are happier than ever before. So, why is it that a staggering 97 per cent of them do not think that advertising is aimed at, or is relevant to, them?

So, what is going on here? Why is both Government and business ignoring the most active voting and spending of age groups? It cannot surely be because only six per cent of the UK ad industry is aged over 50? It can’t be that in the digital switching economy, advertisers cling on to the outmoded notion that you attract a consumer young and you have them for lunch? Or, when the likes of Elle Macpherson, Sandra Bullock, Johnny Depp and Brad Pitt are currently 50, you need to market to older people by making them feel younger?

Or is it? The obsession with youth pervades all areas of society, and flies in the face of the empirical evidence and all demographic trends. It cannot, and surely will not persist, particularly in advance of what will surely come to be seen as the 50+ election.