Pension reforms along with the accumulation of property wealth have created a generation of older people more affluent than ever before and, with the grey pound worth £320bn a year, entrepreneurs are finding new ways to cash in.


Britain’s retiring workers have never had it so good. As well as being among the last workers to benefit from generous final salary pensions, many older people have housing wealth, having got on to the property ladder long before the boom that has priced out many younger buyers. And thanks to new pension freedoms, which came into force in April, the over-55s can now withdraw money from their pension funds.

As a result, even though growing numbers of people are also approaching retirement in debt, some are set to go on a spending spree – and a new wave of businesses are lining up to cash in. The grey pound is worth over £320bn a year, according to Saga, one of the biggest beneficiaries with more than 2.7 million older customers.

Ben Franklin, an economist at the International Longevity Centre UK, says the ageing population is both an economic challenge and a business opportunity. “Companies need to tailor their marketing strategies to be more inclusive of all ages, and not just target their products at the young. Those businesses that adapt to population ageing will thrive, while those that keep to the status quo will struggle to survive.”

Last year, a report by the Association of British Travel Agents found that baby boomers (those aged 51 to 69) were the only age group to have increased the average number of holidays they take every year. Ian Darkin of One Traveller, which specialises in offering holidays for mature single travellers, says: “The new generation of retirees aren’t sitting at home knitting. Their keenness to experience other countries and cultures is undiminished with age.” Demand is particularly growing for activity-based overseas trips, according to AllClear Travel Insurance, which specialises in covering older travellers with pre-existing medical conditions.

“Older travellers are becoming more adventurous and do activities such as trekking in more remote parts of the world. Cycling, skiing, yoga and tennis breaks are all popular,” says spokesman Garry Nelson. Wigan-based hotels operator Shearings Group has also grown strongly on the back of demand for trips to the Coronation Street set, singles holidays for the over-65s, and battlefield tours. Meanwhile, Warner Leisure Hotels, which runs resorts for the over-55s, is introducing paddle boarding, abseiling and zorbing (hurtling down a hill in a huge inflatable ball) to some of its hotels to meet demand for “adrenaline-fuelled activities”.


Older viewers are now among the most avid cinema-goers, thanks in part to the “Marigold Effect” – namely, the box office success of the hit film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Unsurprisingly, movie makers are wising up to this demand. As many as one in three Hollywood movies are now aimed at the retired demographic.

Online dating

Like the younger generation, older people are also playing the dating game. Divorce among the over-60s has risen by a third in a decade, and many are keen to start afresh by seeking fun and friendship online. A study by Bowling Green State University found that individuals over the age of 60 are the fastest growing demographic in online dating. There has also been a rise in sexual activity among the over-50s – in a survey of nearly 9,000 people aged 50 or over by Saga magazine, 71% said they are sexually active in 2013, up from 58% in 2010. David Cliff, 61, spotted a gap in the market after his divorce, and has launched the fast-growing websites: & His company turned over £1,000 in 2004. Today annual revenues are nearing £2m. Cliff says the stigma of dating websites has gone, even among older people. “It’s a section of the online dating industry that will continue to grow strongly in future.”


Forget caravans – the must-have vehicle for today’s pensioner is a motorbike. In 2014, almost 3,000 over-50s passed motorcycling tests, and a report by Saga earlier this year found that this demographic is also responsible for nearly 30% of all spending on bikes. Saga has even launched a specialist insurance policy for silver bikers who are taking to the road in their later years. Roger Ramsden, Saga Services chief executive, says: “Motor-biking is proving really popular among the over-50s and we expect to see even more take to the road on two wheels in future.”


The fitness industry is also waking up to the opportunity that pensioners present. Chris Zaremba, 58, is a personal trainer who has seen a substantial growth in the number of older people taking up sports and fitness through his company “I receive so many requests for personal training from this age group these days that I can’t possibly help them all. It’s getting busier all the time.” Over-55s also go for a walk nearly nine times a month on average, compared with just four for 16- to 24-year-olds, according to a poll by Go Outdoors. To meet demand from older holidaymakers who love walking, companies such as Peak Experience and Walkaboutwalking have sprung up, offering rambling holidays specifically designed for the over-50s.


With the over-65s now owning housing wealth worth an incredible £874bn, older people are key players in the property market. Downsizing, where older people sell up to move to a smaller property, is now the main reason to sell a home, according to Lloyds. Some estate agents now purposefully target the retired market, including Only Bungalows, which sells exactly what its name suggests. Retirement villages – housing developments designed specifically to cater for a community of retired homeowners – are also springing up around the country. This, in turn, triggers demand for community classes such as t’ai chi, aqua aerobics and yoga, and events such as coffee mornings, themed restaurant nights, Christmas fairs, crossword groups and quizzes, according to Audley Retirement Villages.

Private care services

Care-provider services, which offer personal and assisted care to older people living in their own homes, are another growing industry. Some even go beyond everyday care services when catering for this market: family-run business Oxford Private Care offers personal help such as garden maintenance, and hair and beauty services, while Axiom Crossroads Care offers everything from gardening to spring cleaning. Other retirees prefer to privately employ personal assistants, either directly or through a private care agency, to help with tasks such as washing, dressing and using the toilet, as well as preparing meals, shopping, and supporting family carers when they need a break. This is a boom employment area: it is estimated that there will be more than 1 million personal assistants working in the UK by 2025.

Adventures: in care homes

Care home providers are working harder than ever to keep their residents active and interested. The ExtraCare Charitable Trust, which provides extra-care housing in 31 retirement villages across the Midlands and north, offers challenges ranging from looping the loop in a glider to walking with wolves, wheelchair abseiling and dry slope skiing. The trust’s commissioning and healthy lifestyles director, Angela Bradford, says: “Other challenges have included a lady driving an Eddie Stobart lorry, a 91-year-old lady tandem parachuting, a group of residents learning to sail a yacht and others taking part in a triathlon.” The financial services industry is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of all, providing products such as pensions, insurance and equity release, to help the older generation make the most of their wealth. In certain respects, an ageing population is a problem. But for many entrepreneurs, it is the chance of a lifetime.

(Article source: The Guardian)

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