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At the start of 2020, Senior Trends Analyst Diana Kelter discussed how self-care was in a state of evolution. With the onset of COVID-19 bringing even more awareness to what self-care means for consumers and brands alike, Mintel experts Diana Kelter and Carol Wong-Li provide an updated perspective on what to expect within the self-care dialogue.

Before consumers’ daily routines and lifestyles were uprooted, a new dialogue for the self-care conversation was taking shape. It was gradually prioritizing more sustained actions and routines in the same way consumers approach their physical fitness. Currently, with home serving as the primary environment for all consumer activities and concerns about mental health on the rise, brands specifically need to be thinking about self-care through a mindset that looks a lot like habit-building, and most of those opportunities exist directly inside the home. It’s not only the here and now that brands need to be considering but also the months to come.

Creating routines in the home

Self-care in the present

Creating a self-care routine in the home doesn’t require adding new routines and habits to an individual’s day, but rather reframing the necessary routines that consumers have to accomplish. Mintel data collected prior to the COVID-19 outbreak revealed that three in five US consumers who are showering/bathing more often are doing so to relax and more than four in five US consumers agree that completing home projects gives them a sense of pride. This demonstrates that consumers can find relaxation, accomplishment and control within standard household routines, but brands can serve a vital role in connecting the dots.

In coordination with the release of new body care products, Skintimates launched a series of eight-minute guided shower meditations. While the activation was coordinated around a product launch, the campaign focused on the broader experience of using the shower as a place for meditation. It builds off the idea that the best way to maintain self-care is through habitual activities, like showering and bathing.

The kitchen is also becoming a source of pride for consumers. The influencer/cookbook author Gaby Dalkin of “What’s Gaby Cooking” has been a source of joy and comfort for her nearly 600,000 followers on Instagram with daily Instagram Live cooking videos. Dalkin also launched a quarantine podcast where she responds to various quarantine cooking questions. Consumers are looking for kitchen experts that feel relatable and unscripted, specifically in quarantine. Influencers and chefs that bring joy into the kitchen not only allow consumers to feel more comfortable in the kitchen, it also provides a sense of relief that perfection is not the goal. Prior to the outbreak, more than four in five Canadian home cooks felt that cooking at home gives them a sense of accomplishment, according to Mintel research on Canadian meal planning and preparation.

Self-care in the months to come

Even as cities and states gradually reopen on different timelines, home is still going to remain a safe haven for consumers. This means that the cooking routines consumers are learning and embracing for their immediate families could gradually be expanded to be the basis for small dinner parties as consumers feel comfortable expanding networks but not necessarily outside of the home. The self-care habits that individuals build now can serve as the foundation for evolving those activities into broader social routines.

This aligns with the shift seen prior to the pandemic where consumers leaned more strongly towards experiential elements over physical ones as a way to connect with others. According to Mintel research on gifting, half of Canadians would rather host/treat recipients to a meal than give a traditional gift (ie monetary/physical item).

The generational divide of self-care

Self-care in the present

In the past decade, self-care has received the most attention as being a Millennial trend. While Millennials do face a unique set of challenges and self-care is critically important for this generation, it’s important to remember that self-care isn’t a conversation limited to one generation, and a focus on building self-care through habits and routine helps level the playing field for the self-care discussion.

As consumers embrace a wider range of activities to relieve stress, it is important not to lose sight of the importance physical activities have in this arena, particularly as it relates to consumers aged 65 or older. Seniors are the fastest-growing segment in Canada and the US – and perhaps surprisingly – are just as likely as younger consumer demographics to be putting significant emphasis on physical activity and exercise, according to Mintel research on healthy lifestyles in Canada. The link between mental and physical wellness cannot be understated for the segment. Not only is physical activity vital to addressing foundational areas such as muscular and bone health to enhance balance and prevent falls, but it is also an important avenue to prevent cognitive decline and reduce the risk of depression, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Simple leisure activities such as walking, dancing, or gardening are important contributors to the physical fitness of seniors. Currently, these are highly restricted due to preventative measures in place to manage the spread of COVID-19. Much like how SARS accelerated the adoption of e-commerce in China, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the usage of online platforms to enable consumers to address physical fitness at home. While many new offerings have been geared more towards younger audiences, this may have the side effect of encouraging seniors to look into different options, or at least make them more open to the idea of looking towards digital platforms. While discussions across both Canada and the US now include discussions about the easing of such measures, such plans will likely happen in stages/tiers to protect citizens and the more vulnerable, which means that seniors could be living under restrictions the longest.

Self-Care in the Months to Come 

Looking ahead, building off the notion of workouts doubling as social hangouts and incorporating simple leisurely activities like exercise and stress-relief for seniors opens up opportunities for a broad spectrum of categories to actively take part in the wellness conversation for seniors.

For example, furniture stores could host virtual senior walking or ‘movement’ classes that operate similarly to mall walks in that seniors could see each other but the class encourages seniors to walk and move around their living space. Similarly, home improvement retailers could sell senior-friendly home gardening kits that are supplemented with virtual gardening sessions where seniors partake in planting or tending to their gardens together. By creating senior-only small group environments and setting dedicated times for these virtual gatherings, companies across categories can help to keep seniors active, social and safe while preventative measures still exist. Positively, such offerings can help build social networks (and habits) that have the potential to stick well after measures are lifted.

As Millennials and Gen Xers fall into caregiving roles, tools that offer a sense of connection will be valuable for creating a sense of routine. In this regard, providing motivation by mobilizing younger generations should fast-track the adoption of the above-mentioned behaviors.

Borrowing from the common practice of older consumers turning to younger family members for tech support, companies could flip this concept and tap into those who are simply interested in helping out. In April 2020, Walmart partnered with Nextdoor app to launch “Neighbors Helping Neighbors” which allowed individuals more vulnerable to COVID-19 to connect with neighbors who were available to help and were already going to their local Walmart stores. Such tools should prove mutually beneficial as they provide relief for both caregivers and seniors alike as well as foster new self-care avenues that can be maintained moving forward.

Diana Kelter is a Senior Trend Analyst at Mintel.

Carol Wong-Li is Associate Director, Lifestyles and Leisure at Mintel.