Downscale, settled retirees in metro apartment communities
Senior Discounts are mostly elderly people on fixed incomes who have retired to city apartment buildings geared for seniors. Most of these residents are over 75 years old, and they tend to seek out these apartments when they become widowed or can no longer cope with the maintenance of a home. While a high percentage has grown children and three-quarters are grandparents, their kids are typically too far away or incapable of supporting them in their homes. Still, despite modest incomes, these elderly Americans express satisfaction with their life, have a circle of close friends and enjoy both hobbies and nightlife. Some are taking classes and they’re looking for opportunities to improve their social life.
Senior Discounts are found all around the country, typically in metro communities that permit large, multi-unit apartment buildings. Many have moved in within the last seven years. Given their sometimes dicey neighborhoods, they prefer the security of an apartment building, preferably with a doorman, to being on their own. Some can take advantage of rent-controlled rates and senior discounts to help stretch their budgets.
Many members of this segment have active leisure lives. Surveys show that they go out regularly to see plays, attend classical music concerts and gamble at casinos. Their neighborhoods often feature a nearby senior center that offers bingo and exercise programs. Many travel regularly to foreign destinations, ever interested in learning about new cultures and customs. At home, they enjoy reading and needlecraft, and some are active collectors of coins and porcelain figures. However, most Senior Discounts wouldn’t qualify as sophisticated investors. Few have income-producing assets, and only a small percentage own stocks or bonds. Many get by on small pensions that supplement their Social Security checks, and they are often slow to pay off their monthly credit card balances. When they pay their bills, it’s often with cash or a money order.
As consumers, these older Americans are more concerned about discounts than designer labels. They tend to patronize the same stores and wear the same styles for years. They’ll go to both bargain and mid-scale retailers, though they typically head first to the clearance rack when arriving at a Macy’s or Stein Mart. Occasionally, these shoppers will splurge on a high-quality outfit for a special event or when they want to make a statement. Because functionality is the most important factor when they consider a purchase, they’re skeptical of most advertising claims; in fact, they ignore most advertising.
Spending a lot of time in their apartments, Senior Discounts are a solid media market. They like to read newspapers and magazines, listen to pre-rock music on the radio and watch a lot of TV. Their favorite cable channels include TCM, the Movie Channel, CNBC and CNN. Many verge on obsessive when it comes to watching favorite game shows and nightly newscasts. Though they do not often access the Internet, they will go online to Websites that offer health information, political news and sports standings featuring their favorite teams.
Senior Discounts are mostly happy with their lives and cherish their families and friends. They like to meet new people, entertain them in their apartments and stay in touch with their far-away families. Faith is important to these seniors, who are active in their churches and synagogues. They’re politically active as well, supporting mainly conservative social issues. Monitoring their health is important to these Americans, who watch their diets, take preventive medicine and listen to their doctors.
As older members of the Traditionalist Generation, Senior Discounts are downscale retirees living in multi-unit city apartments often designed specifically to house senior citizens. A majority are over 75 years old; more than eight in ten households are of retirement age. Nearly three- quarters of all households consist of widowed individuals, the highest in the nation. Predominantly white with limited educations, 42 percent are high school dropouts; those who are still in the workforce tend to hold low-level service-sector jobs in health care. Most have grown children who typically live too far away to care for them; in this segment, three-quarters are grandparents.
When Americans are widowed, have constrained finances or feel too fragile to care for their homes, they often move to the kinds of apartment projects favored by Senior Discounts. These multi-unit apartment complexes were typically built over the last half-century and are found in big cities and inner-ring suburbs scattered around the country, from Denver to Baltimore to the Bronx. A majority of residents have moved to these rental apartments in the last seven years. Home values in this segment are nearly a third less than the national average, but they’re still prohibitive for these Americans. More than three-quarters can only afford to rent, and even then they often benefit from rent-controlled rates.
Still healthy and active, Senior Discounts try to enjoy their leisure time with friends and family. Many try to get out at least once a week, and they go to the theater, classical music concerts, casinos and comedy clubs. Those who have served in the Armed Forces are often active in veterans’ clubs; others participate in arts organizations. Bingo is a popular pastime in this segment, where their apartment building or nearby citizen’s center may operate weekly games at little cost. These seniors like to get regular exercise, and those who are still nimble like to play golf and tennis. Every few years, they typically travel abroad, often going to Greece, Spain, France and Israel. When they travel domestically to see their family, they like to watch their budget and stay at discount motels like Red Roof Inn and La Quinta.
Given their tight finances, Senior Discounts tend to be price-conscious shoppers. When they shop for clothes, they head first for the clearance rack. Then they look for items that are comfortable, conservative in style and functional; they tend to favor classic styles that have suited them for years. Their favorite stores tend to be ones close by and offer good value for their money. However, they enjoy shopping at a range of retailers, from Kmart and Family Dollar to Macy’s and Stein Mart, and recognize that it’s sometimes worth paying extra for quality goods. Despite their advanced age, a disproportionate number say that they like clothes that allow them to make a unique fashion statement.
Senior Discounts like to spend quiet evenings at home, where they read books, listen to music, jazz and 40s pop are favorite styles, and do needlework. Many like to buy collectibles such as coins, porcelain figures and crystal objects. Most are entertained, however, with a variety of media. They are loyal newspaper readers, turning to the local news, opinion and classifieds sections first. They enjoy leafing through magazines and subscribe to Cosmopolitan, The New Yorker, Cooking Light and Ladies’ Home Journal. Their chief form of entertainment will always be their TV set, though. They’re big fans of TV news, movies, history programs, game shows and documentaries. At a time when many people are shifting to watching TV programs and movies online, these Americans say the Internet has had no impact on their lives.
Senior Discounts may be older but they haven’t lost a step. They’re happy with their life, optimistic about the future and often at the center of their circle of friends. They believe in the importance of lasting relationships and try to stay in touch with their friends. But they’re also family-oriented people who enjoy spending time with their children and grandchildren, and they admit that they find it difficult to deny their requests. With their overabundance of pride, they want friends and family to think that they’re doing well.
Politically active, Senior Discounts always vote and typically support conservative Democrats. These Americans say their faith is important to them, and they’re involved in their church or synagogue, regularly going to services. With a strong moral compass, mainly support conservative social issues.
Senior Discounts are proud of their independence, and they show little evidence of slowing down. They’re still involved in the pursuit of novelty and change, saying that they like to try new things and take risks. Many tell researchers that they’re still looking for opportunities to improve their life, taking classes and trying to keep well-informed. They take vitamins, watch their diet and try to exercise at least once a week. Refusing to fall into a rut, they admit that they like to live for the moment and not worry about the future.
The most downscale of the mature segments, Senior Discounts are widows and widowers who rely on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to get by. At less than $28,000, their incomes are about 60 percent below the national average. Few have even modest nest eggs. Risk- averse, they own few stocks, mutual funds or bonds, though they do own some bank CDs and tax-sheltered annuities. However, they patronize banks less than the average and typically pay their bills with money orders or cash. Some get by with the help of regular credit cards, though they don’t always pay off their balances each month. They rarely set aside much money for health or life insurance. If they have any life insurance, it’s typically a low-balance policy under $20,000.
Senior Discounts are a reluctant digital market. They are among those with the least Internet use. They rarely go online for shopping or banking. When they do access the Internet, a disproportionate number still use a slow, dial-up modem. These seniors do appreciate the wealth of free information available on the Internet, and they like to go to Websites that feature news, politics, health, sports and games. Those that do surf the Internet visit sites such as WebMD, Newsmax, Yahoo Sports and USAToday.