Established, ethnically-diverse and mature couples living gratified lifestyles in older homes
One of the nation’s older groups, Autumn Years contains mostly mature couples retired in the same house where they’ve lived for much of their lives. Nearly two-thirds are over 65 years old. About the same proportion are married couples with grown children; about three-quarters are already grandparents. Predominantly white and lower middle-class, they’ve decided to stay in the old neighborhood rather move to a retirement community. Proud members of the Greatest Generation, these couples are rooted in their communities, often belonging to local art groups, veterans’ clubs, unions, churches and temples.
Autumn Years are living the American dream of home ownership. Some 97 percent own a single-family home, typically in small towns or older industrial cities in the Northeast and Midwest - places like Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., as well as Pittsburgh and McKeesport, Pa. Many couples raised their children in these modest homes, which were built between 1950 and 1970. With their mortgages close to being paid off, they are now taking out home equity loans to add a second story or backyard deck. Comfortable in their tight-knit communities, nearly half have lived at the same residence for more than 20 years.
Autumn Years often came from humble beginnings; nearly two-thirds never went beyond high school. While more than half are retired, those who are still in the workforce hold jobs in farming, blue-collar professions or the service industry. These working-class jobs only provide below- average incomes. However, with their modest expenses and children out of the house, these couples enjoy easy-going and home-centered lifestyles that don’t require high-powered salaries.
The members of Autumn Years enjoy their quiet leisure time. They tend to like to stick around the house to watch TV, read books, garden or pursue hobbies like needlework and woodworking. They have enough money from their regular investments in stocks and savings bonds to splurge on attending plays, classical concerts and country music performances. They make a prime audience for home-style restaurants, hitting the early-bird specials. Although they rarely engage in aerobic activities, they do like outdoor activities such as fishing and hunting. They’re not big on foreign travel, but many will save up for a cruise to Alaska or an RV trip to national parks out west.
As consumers, Autumn Years admit that they’re not very adventurous. They have a conservative fashion sense and are loyal to their favorite brands, patronizing mid-market and discount chains such as Sears, Kmart, Meijer and BJ’s Wholesale Club. While they like to buy a new car every few years - typically a sedan or luxury car made in America - they resist new technology and the latest electronics. Even their car choices are staid nameplates like Buick, Chrysler and Mercury.
These older couples make a strong market for traditional media. Many subscribe to a daily newspaper, typically reading it from cover to cover. They listen to the radio during the day, particularly to stations that feature adult contemporary music, news, classic hits and classical music. They call TV their main source of entertainment, arranging their schedules around favorite TV programs like news, documentaries, how-to and game shows on cable channels like TCM, GSN, Hallmark and the History Channel. These seniors also appreciate women’s and outdoors magazines that have been around for decades - titles such as Family Circle, Field & Stream, Reader’s Digest and Good Housekeeping. They’re not big fans of most forms of advertising.
Politically, this group consists of conservatives who actively support the Republican Party and favor traditional family values. Philanthropy is popular among these households, and many contribute to religious, health, environmental and political organizations. They’re not too worried about their own status; many say that they’re happy with their current lives and confident about the future.
Most Autumn Years are not active users of digital media. They’re less than half as likely as average Americans to use the Internet at home or work. They rarely go online using a cell phone, laptop or wireless connection; among those with an Internet connection, a disproportionate number use dial-up access. However, this group does contain many Web surfers who like to go online to bank, download games, get the weather report and check out lottery sites. Online shopping is only moderately popular, but these consumers will research products and make occasional purchases at sites like samsclub.com, kbb.com and ebaymotors.com.