40 years ago, when German-language pop star Udo Jürgen’s song ‘Mit 66 Jahren’ (‘At 66 years old’) became a hit by portraying the life of a hale and hearty retiree, it stood in contrast to the self-image and everyday reality of many retirees at that time. Surprisingly, the song is rarely heard nowadays, yet its message is more relevant than ever: rising life expectancy and declining birth rates are contributing to a profound change in the age structure of western societies. More and more, retirement age is not being viewed as the last stage of life, but rather the best time of life – and it’s being lived accordingly. The Silver Society is on the rise, and it’s providing the impetus for a powerful trend.

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The change in demographics has already begun and will continue to progress: it is presumed that by 2050, the amount of people over the age of 80 in Germany will have tripled, with every third German being older than 65. This not only means that the entire infrastructure must be adapted to suit the needs of an older population while the care and nursing sector expands accordingly, it also means that the demographic change will be accompanied by lifestyle changes later in life.

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Today’s seniors are more active, more health-conscious, healthier, and possess more curiosity and interests as previous generations of seniors – they are living life to the fullest. Meanwhile, how younger segments of the society view seniors is also changing. In times where the shortage of skilled workers is growing, companies are beginning to appreciate such virtues as experience, wisdom and knowledge, which they often find among their more mature workers. The employment market is not only welcoming younger players, but seasoned professionals as well.

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The retirees of today and tomorrow are financially better off, plus they’re enthusiastic consumers – transforming them into one of the most significant target groups for advertising. It’s currently assumed that in Germany, about 70 percent of the monetary assets are in the hands of people over the age of 50. This figure clearly illustrates the buying potential that the ‘Silver Society’ possesses. The term ‘Silver Society’ is not so much a reference to grey hair as to the precious opportunity of turning particular products and services aimed at this target group – which forms the lucrative ‘silver market’ – into successful sales. However, a lot still needs to be done to properly cater to the needs of this consumer class, particularly in the area of online sales, which currently focuses on younger users despite the considerable expansion of internet usage among the older generations.

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The growing number of mature customers is not only a chance, but also a challenge for businesses and service providers. The discerning nature of many experienced older consumers means that more arduous persuasive efforts are necessary to influence their purchasing decisions. This is a factor which the advertising industry, including advertising photography, has to come to terms with. The vendor’s trustworthiness and the product’s quality as well as communicating these traits in an image will gain importance, making it crucial for the advertisement’s illustration not to feature just any old image, but rather one which effectively imparts the desired message to viewers of the pertinent target group.

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