Canada’s Aging Population: Why bigger, earlier and intuitive are the gateway to customer engagement

February 19, 2015
4 min read

Canada is home to interesting and diverse markets and boasts one of the most dynamic economies in the world. However, even today, there is an oversimplified view of the country–that what works well in the United States could easily translate to Canada. Mintel research on the Canadian consumer provides a dedicated view on life in Canada and the different demographic groups throughout the country. Mintel examined five of Canada’s key influential consumer groups, including what sets them apart, what their preferences are and why these are the ones to watch in 2015. Among the most significant for the Canadian markets are senior citizens – Read about all five groups here: The 5 key Canadian consumers groups you need to know.

Canada’s population is aging, with the proportion of over-65s increasing at the fastest rate, and is expected to increase 19% by 2019. In 2011, the median age in Canada was 39.9 years, meaning that more than half of Canadians were aged 40 or more. This number has risen dramatically over the past 40 years, with the median age in 1971 standing at just 26.2 years. Medical advances, better education of health issues, and over-65s’ tendency to focus more on health than younger groups are notable reasons for this trend.

What’s the most noteworthy characteristic of the aging Canadian population?

Many of these older consumers are not falling into outmoded stereotypes of senior citizens. Rather they are looking to lead full lives and retain some youthful habits. Many consumers in this cohort remain active, engaged and continue to work, presenting extended opportunities for various industries such as the technology sector. According to Mintel’s Digital Trends Canada 2014 report, of the third of Canadians over the age of 65 who have access to a tablet in their household, 87% personally own the device. While this illustrates an interest in tech products, a lack of knowledge on product features and functionality may be stopping them from enjoying the devices to their full potential. Providing in-store demonstrations, one-on-one training and/or better instructional guides may help boost confidence in personal technology devices, as well as boost sales.

When it comes to spending and leisure, the older population represents a valuable group of consumers; they are the group most likely to shop on a regular basis. Almost half of Canadians aged 55-64 shop at least once a month, compared to an average of 34%. Furthermore, older Canadians remain active consumers in leisure activities, such as going out for expensive meals, vacationing and attending concerts, sporting events or theatre.

As the Canadian population ages, an opportunity exists for brands and retailers in the lifestyle and leisure industries to reach older Canadians online. Older Canadians remain active consumers in the leisure space, many of whom already find value in utilizing online reviews. Sites that outline a restaurant’s senior-friendly accommodations such as specific health issues (eg. high blood pressure), or ease of movement throughout the dining room, are especially great resources for this demographic group. Brands and retailers should consider engaging with older consumers via online platforms designed specifically for this group. The design of web pages, online tools or apps should include larger fonts, bigger buttons or other potentially relevant considerations. Companies could consider including seniors in website usability testing, ensuring their sites are easily navigable for this group.

In Japan, supermarket chain and mall operator Aeon is at the forefront of recognizing the demands of an ageing population with a shopping center subtly tailored to the demands of older shoppers. The mall has larger signs, more seating areas and slower escalator, as well as a same-day bifocals optician service, and beauty products tailored for older consumers. Similarly, the US automotive industry is striving to keep seniors behind the wheel longer into their lives. Prolonged employment – and commuting – is a boost for the sector, but designers and manufacturers need to offer a helping hand to drivers as well. As a result, we’re seeing cars that scan the driver’s thoughts and prepare the vehicle for the next move and in-car monitoring tools that compensate for dangerous or distracted behavior.

A dynamic and wholly exciting consumer group to discover, the Canadian senior is unlike generations that came before it. They are active, living and working later in life; they are connected, with access to personal technology devices, the latest in auto innovations and all that the internet has to offer; and they are engaged, on social media, with brands and with each other.

Jason Praw
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