Stable, minimalist seniors living in older residences and leading sedentary lifestyles
A segment of older retirees, Town Elders are a mix of widowed individuals and empty-nesting couples scattered around the country. All are over 65 and nearly nine out of ten householders are retired. Many have aged in place, living in the original ranch houses and ramblers that they bought more than 25 years ago. This is a stable segment with little mobility; the members are predominantly white and mostly downscale. Incomes and investment balances are low, but so are expenses. Many of these seniors say that they’re happy with their standard of living and don’t worry about the future.
Town Elders cultivate home-centered lifestyles. These households spend a lot of time reading books, gardening, doing needlework and generally puttering around their homes. They have time to enjoy hobbies like coin collecting and bird-watching. They don’t eat out much except for the occasional outing to a Dairy Queen for a treat. There’s not a lot of money for nightlife and travel. Instead, their social lives revolve around their local church and veterans’ club, where they enjoy the camaraderie and bingo games. When they do travel to visit friends and family - more than three-quarters are grandparents - they’ll take a bus, RV or car. Most still drive - typically sedans and pickup trucks - and more than half own three or more vehicles.
Town Elders aren’t big on shopping; it’s too tiring for some. Many like the convenience of nearby local stores and retailers where they can find their favorite brands. They typically choose comfort over style, and patronize both discount and mid-market mall retailers. These are the consumers who carry credit cards for Sears and JCPenney, and a high percentage also shop by mail-order and phone. With a high percentage having served in the Armed Forces, members of this segment are patriotic in the marketplace. When they can, they buy products made in the USA.
Town Elders are traditional media fans. They get a daily newspaper, subscribe to a number of magazines - stalwarts like Field & Stream and Better Homes & Gardens - and watch TV throughout the day. They particularly enjoy movies, documentaries and game shows, and they’re twice as likely as average Americans to tune in to re-runs on the Hallmark Channel, especially “Murder, She Wrote” and “Little House on the Prairie”. The Internet has made few inroads in this segment, and those who do go online typically only have dial-up access. They mostly use the Internet to send e-greetings and research health information; the AARP Website is extremely popular with this segment.
Town Elders are traditional, care about their family and cultivate their faith. They espouse conservative political beliefs and support conservative social issues. They like spending time with their family, going to church on Sunday and watching religious programs during the week. Having lived at the same address for decades, they have deep roots in the community. Even if an issue doesn’t affect them personally, they’re always willing to volunteer for a good cause.
One of the oldest segments in the country, Town Elders are retired Americans living in small towns. Nearly two-thirds of household heads are over 75 years old; all are over 65. The predominantly white households are a mix: nearly two-thirds are widowed individuals while the rest are married couples. While none have children living at home, more than three-quarters are grandparents. Only 13 percent have a college degree, but at this point in their lives with their working days behind them, they’re not looking to get ahead by furthering their education.
Scattered across the country, Town Elders live in small towns and rural villages, often in economically depressed areas. Housing values are low, less than 60 percent of the national average, and many of the ranch houses and bungalows typically situated on small lots were built more than a half-century ago. Many residents are original owners who have aged in place and paid off their mortgages. One-third of segment members have been at the same residence for over 25 years, two-thirds for more than 15 years.
Town Elders lead quiet, mostly sedentary lifestyles. They spend a lot of time indoors reading, doing needlework and watching TV. They’re collectors with interests in coins, porcelain figurines and crystal objects, and one of their favorite activities is antique shopping. They engage in few fitness activities but they like to go bird-watching and target shooting. There’s not a lot of money for travel, but these folks do take trips, typically to visit family members by bus or RV. For a treat, they’ll go out to a Dairy Queen, Arby’s or Church’s Fried Chicken. On their fixed incomes, they rarely select fancier fare.
As consumers, Town Elders come across as reluctant shoppers, more interested in convenience and comfort than fashion and exclusivity. Many prefer local stores to national chains, American brands to foreign goods and functional clothes to cutting-edge styles. Their top-rated retailers include both discount and mid-market companies: Family Dollar, Dollar General and Belk. Many don’t have the stamina for long shopping excursions; when they go to a store, they tend to buy exactly what they need and leave without another glance. Little wonder that many in this segment like to shop by phone or mail-order, buying books, women’s apparel and gardening tools at more than twice the national average.
The home-bound Town Elders make a strong audience for traditional media. They like getting their news from a daily paper, and nearly a third of householders read every page. They read venerable magazine titles such as Field & Stream, Better Homes & Gardens, American Rifleman and House Beautiful. They’re no big fans of radio, either in their cars or at home. Their chief form of news and entertainment is TV. Many enjoy broadcast news, movies and game shows, as well as cable channels like Hallmark, TCM, AMC, CNN and Fox News. They dislike the commercial interruptions and tend to mute the sound when an ad appears. These Americans prefer the silence of advertisements in newspaper inserts and coupons.
Faith, family and community are the theme values of Town Elders. These traditionalists describe themselves as spiritual people who go to church on Sunday and watch religious programs during the week. Politically, their views range from conservative to right-wing. These politically active citizens - nearly all are registered to vote - are more likely to belong to the Democratic Party than the Republican.
The primacy of the family is an important value in Town Elders. These singles and couples enjoy spending time with their family, especially quiet evenings at home, and they want their family to think they’re doing well. They’re old-fashioned regarding issues of gender and age, stating children should be respectful of their elders. Despite their downscale economics, these seniors feel they’re doing okay and are generally happy with their lives.
Town Elders make an effort to get involved in the communities where they’ve lived for so many years. They belong to veterans’ clubs, churches and synagogues, and they often take leadership roles as board members. They like to be well-informed about the issues of the day and will volunteer for a good cause. They attribute their community spirit to a genuine interest in people and a willingness to help others, even if they receive no benefit.
With incomes under $32,000 and few income-producing assets, Town Elders know they need to be cautious money managers. They regard the stock market as too risky, and their investments tend to be conservative instruments like CDs, money market accounts and tax-sheltered annuities; the total amount is typically under $50,000. These households barely register for owning stocks and mutual funds. They also don’t muster much interest in insurance products, other than some health and whole-life policies acquired earlier in their working lives. They do use plastic, owning a variety of credit cards for bills, gas and stores (especially Sears and JCPenney). Some households have taken out loans for home improvement and new cars, and they regard their cars as important forms of status and wealth. In fact, more than half have three or more cars cluttering their driveways.
Low incomes, modest educations and advanced ages combine to make low digital activity in Town Elders. These retirees mostly missed the Internet revolution and have little interest in smartphones, wireless computers and high-speed online access. Few have much use for the Internet. Still, those that do go online are making the most of it, sending e-greetings and using webcams to keep in touch with far-off children, grandkids and old friends. Many do enjoy surfing to Websites that offer news, health information, motorsports standings and cruise deals. Among their favorite sites: Classmates.com, CaregiverStress, Accuweather and AARP.