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Older generations have many stereotypes applied to them, such as only being interested in bingo, or purely listening to Frank Sinatra instead of any other music genre. We know this isn’t true.

That’s why we wanted to give some Baby Boomers and seniors a chance to make their voices heard and challenge expectations. Getting old is not synonymous with negative experiences, and our findings below show exactly why.  

Table of contents

Key Findings:

  • 61% of seniors and Baby Boomers reject the label of ‘old’
  • 1 in 3 (34.8%) older adults prefer to stream crime documentaries as 42.1% say daytime soap operas are boring
  • Young people would be surprised at ‘my music taste’ say 79.3% of Boomers and seniors
  • To prove this, 23% say they’re fans of hip-hop, 17% are lovers of heavy-metal
  • Over half of older adults say they want to try thrill seeking activities, due to the pandemic
  • Of these thrills, 1 in 3 older adults said they were interested in sky-diving
  • 1 in 4 seniors aspire to see all the Wonders of the World
  • Most seniors want to vacation at home or in the UK or Italy
  • 90s fashion is seniors’ favourite fashion era

61% of seniors and Baby Boomers reject the label of ‘old’

‘Old’ is not a word we like to use at Amica because it tends to be used in a negative way toward seniors. With this, we wanted to know if our surveyed older adults considered themselves ‘old’, along with the connotations that come with the word: 61% said they did not. 

Getting older means different things to every individual person and younger people may be surprised by older adults and their attitude to life. For example, 3 in 5 (61%) older adults are now more determined to achieve their life goals due to the pandemic. 

With that, we wanted to find out what activities and goals have changed for people including travel, fitness, and technology. 

Older adults and technology

The vast majority of our sample (88%) thought that younger people believe older adults are incapable of effectively using technology, they also believe this assumption is very wrong. 

An overwhelming 96% would describe themselves as tech-savvy, either slightly (47.2%) or a lot (48.8%), only 4% said they wouldn’t describe themselves this way. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that the public might be underestimating seniors and their ability to use technology, especially due to the recent pandemic. 

If you or your loved ones are looking at using technology more, we would always encourage a brief refresher on internet safety tips especially as online-scams have rocketed in 2020 and 2021.

Half of older adults have downloaded social media apps in the last year
We also asked our group of older adults about their mobile apps and what they had downloaded recently. The top choices were social media apps (50.1%), music (44.8%) and gaming (41.4%). The full list of app categories can be seen in the graphic below.

Older adults and gaming

While 41% are embracing mobile gaming, we also asked about video gaming habits (on either PC or console). 

3 in 4 (76%) have played video games in the last year 
Younger people often don’t consider that older people enjoy video games, but this expectation needs changing: only 23.9% said they hadn’t played video games in the last year. 

Over half (53.4%) said they had played more video games in the last year than the year before, and a further 22.7% told us they had played their first video game. A scientific study published in 2020 highlighted a similar figure stating that roughly 20% of grandparents started gaming due to pandemic lockdowns. 

With the majority having some contact with video games, we further asked if anyone would describe themselves as a gamer in any way, big or small. 61.2% said they would describe themselves as ‘a gamer’. 

The definition of being ‘a gamer’ was left up to those surveyed, this could be someone who enjoys a mobile app once a week, or is playing next-generation consoles. 

Sports and creative video games are favourites among seniors
When asked about their preferred types of video games, we found that sports games were the top choice for older adults (28.4%) followed by creative games (26.4%), and those that involved an element of online multiplayer (25.3%). 

With sporting events having been postponed due to the pandemic it is possible many older adults were embracing the interactivity of a sporting game instead. 

Older adults and TV 

Stereotypically, Baby Boomers and seniors may spend their TV viewing hours on shopping channels, soap operas or watching serious debate shows. These stereotypes are definitely not accepted by all older TV viewers though. 

42.1% of older adults say the daytime soap opera stereotype is wrong
We discovered that 47.5% of our sample thought shopping channels were boring, 42.1% said the same about soap operas, and 37.2% mentioned a lack of enjoyment for debating shows. Live classical music concerts were disliked by 35.2%, while 28.1% did not enjoy period dramas, with a quarter (25.7%) stating they find nature documentaries boring. 

34.8% of seniors and Boomers prefer to stream crime documentaries
If some stereotypical TV choices for older adult viewers are not correct, we wanted to find out what people actually do enjoy watching. For the vast majority, they want to be made to laugh with comedies being the most popular choice (63.3%), followed by romantic comedies (35.2%), and crime documentaries (34.8%). The full list of top TV viewing choices for older adults can be seen in the following graphic: 

Bar chart showing top TV genres for seniors

Older adults and music

If you search online for ‘music for seniors’ you’re going to be largely shown 70s specials, or hits to help with memory issues. While the latter is particularly important, there is a stereotype that older adults simply are not that interested in music, our data shows this may not be true. 

Young people would be surprised at my music taste’ say 79.3% of Boomers and seniors
In fact, 79.3% of our sample thought that younger people would be surprised at their music interests. Genre-wise, pop music (28.7%) was the most popular, followed by classical music (26.3%), and hip-hop in third place (23.4%). 

In terms of surprises, 17.3% of our sample said heavy metal was one of their favourite genres, and 13.8% said they listened to house music! 

The top 10 music genres preferred by our sample was as follows: 

3 in 4 seniors watched music live streams during the pandemic
With many believing older adults are not tech-savvy, it may be surprising to some that 76.8% had watched at least one music live stream during the pandemic. Further to this, 42.3% said that they had watched ‘a lot’ of these performances. This could be live concerts, acoustic live streams or even a virtual band practice. 

Older adults and sports, fitness, and thrill seeking 

The pandemic has caused older adults to rethink their sports and fitness goals, with 69.6% wanting to try new sports or fitness activities. Of their typical existing activities, 38.4% thought golf was boring, 35.2% would not want to play lawn bowling, and 35% can’t bear to go mall walking. 

Over half of older adults say they want to try thrill seeking activities due to the pandemic
The pandemic has made many rethink what they want to do with their life, and for some this can mean trying once-in-a-lifetime experiences. 52.6% of our sample said that they wanted to try an extreme sport or thrill-seeking activity. 

1 in 3 older adults are interested in sky-diving due to the pandemic
We asked further what specific activities might be of interest. For this, we asked our sample to answer as if this was post-pandemic with no restrictions. The top answer was sailing by far (56.2%), followed by hot air balloons rides (38.9%), driving fast cars (38.5%), and zip lining (36%). 

The full list of thrill-seeking activities that seniors and Baby Boomers were interested in doing was as follows: 

Bar chart showing thrill seeking activities adults are interested in

Older adults and travel

Over half (56.9%) of our seniors and Boomers said that their travel bucket list had changed due to the pandemic: they’re adding more destinations and they’ve got big plans. 

‘Coach tours are boring’ say 49.5% of older adults
With travel goals changing due to the pandemic we wanted to know what stereotypical senior vacation ideas might be considered boring by some. The largest majority (49.5%) thought that coach tours were boring, 40% said they didn’t enjoy senior day-trips, and a third (33.5%) said they definitely wouldn’t want to spend two weeks on a cruise ship. 

The full list of senior activities older adults consider boring can be seen below: 

1 in 4 seniors are set on seeing all the Wonders of the World 
After we established what seniors thought was boring about vacations, we wanted to know what was most enjoyable for them (or will be post-pandemic). The largest majority (29.8%) wanted to take a trip to engage with nature more, whereas 27.3% said they want to visit big cities, and 26.7% are set on visiting all the Wonders of the World

The full list of travel goals for seniors and Boomers can be seen below:

Most seniors want to vacation in the USA, UK, and Italy
In terms of vacation hotspots, the USA (39.3%), UK (28.5%), Italy (26%), Australia (24.3%), and Canada (23%), were the top five choices for older adults when they are able to travel. 

Interestingly, 1 in 10 would also be up for a trip to Russia, China, or Antarctica!

Older adults and fashion

From our analysis, we found that 68.1% of older adults care about their fashion choices and how they look. With the remaining 31.9% stating they are indifferent or actively not caring about fashion. 

90s fashion is seniors’ favourite fashion era
For those who do care about fashion we wanted to know what their favourite era was for clothing. It turns out the 90s with it’s flared jeans and overalls was a hit for many. You can see the full fashion breakdown below.

2 in 3 older adults purchase clothes based on environmental impact
Sustainability concerns and fast fashion are talked about hand-in-hand, with that we wanted to know if our older adults thought about this when purchasing clothes. 2 in 3 (66.7%) said that the environmental impact of their clothing does impact their purchasing decisions. It seems stereotypes surrounding older adults not caring for the planet may not be accurate. 

1 in 3 older adults use social media for fashion inspiration 
With so many seniors and Boomers engaging with technology more, we asked if this may impact their fashion choices. 1 in 3 (33.8%) said that they took fashion inspiration from social media, and 26% said they found inspiration from influencers and celebrities online. 

Bar chart showing seniors' fashion inspiration

Stereotypically, younger people may have a view that older adults don’t take inspiration, especially not from social media, but it may be time to rethink this. 

Conclusion

Have your expectations of what it means to be ‘old’ been challenged? We hope so! Whether it's in relation to vacation trips, technology usage, or fashion choices, stereotyping older adults can lead to people misunderstanding their relatives and neighbors. Next time you’re speaking to a senior in your life, perhaps reconsider your expectations and engage in a different kind of conversation. 

Methodology

We surveyed 1,203 adults who are in, or nearing, retirement, aged 55+ from Canada and the United States in June 2021 via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk online survey platform. They were asked a variety of questions about stereotypes and lifestyle choices.