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Aging Baby Boomers Will Cause Significant Changes in the Leisure Sector, Including Sports and Activity-Based Travel, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

The term “Baby Boomer” generally refers to someone born in the U.S. or Europe from 1946 to 1964.  The term evolved to describe the children of soldiers and war industry workers who were involved in World War II.  When those veterans and workers returned to civilian life, they started or added to families in large numbers.  As a result, the Baby Boom generation is one of the largest demographic segments in the U.S.  Some Baby Boomers have already reached retirement age.  In 2006, the first of the boomers reached 60, a common early retirement age.  In 2011, millions began to turn traditional retirement age (65) for the first time.  Eventually, the aging of Baby Boomers will result in extremely rapid growth in the senior portion of the population.
The Baby Boom segment will have distinct requirements that should be considered by businesses that want to succeed in evolving markets.  A major consideration is the fact that many boomers will attempt to reap the health benefits of exercise for the first time in years, if not for the first time in their lives.  Aerobic activity will become vital to those who want to maintain healthy lifestyles, but activities and equipment must be adapted to aging bodies.  For example, leaders in the bicycle marketplace are introducing a growing number of models that enable older riders to sit more upright, while leaning over less.  Bicycle seats and suspension that are kinder to older bodies will sell well.
One new sport gaining popularity among Americans aged 55 and over is pickleball, a sport played on a small court using wood and graphite rackets and plastic balls.  The smaller courts are easier on aging joints than tennis.
Firms that design and make equipment for high-impact or repetitive-motion sports will be striving to create equipment that is easier on older joints and muscles.  For example, golf clubs or tennis rackets that have bigger sweet spots or provide more power with less effort in the stroke are logical products for this market.
Lower-impact sports and exercise will gain in favor.  Swimming, power walking and day hiking should all have bright futures, as should the firms that manufacture equipment for these activities.  Exercise and gym equipment makers will do well to make lines of equipment adapted to, or specifically for, older users.  For example, instruction labels on gym equipment will need to have larger font sizes so that the type will be easy for older eyes to read.  Softer, more ergonomic grips on weights and other gym equipment make sense.  Activities that are easy for older people to enter for the first time will prosper in this market.  Pilates and yoga, when taught in a manner suitable for stiffer, older bodies, could continue to boom.
Travel and tours centered on sports and recreation activities will continue to do well, especially where at least some venues are tailored to appeal to older participants.  The massive number of affluent, retired consumers will be looking for healthy activities and recreation on their travels.  Tours that combine cycling, hiking, walking and other activities of moderate intensity are good fits in this market, and demand will grow sharply.  Tours that combine hiking or cycling with luxury accommodations or unique lodging in pristine remote settings (including the rapidly growing trend of ecotourism) will find large numbers of customers.  Sporting goods manufacturers would do well to provide sponsorships and test equipment to tour operators and should seek ways to offer seminars and sports instruction that fit neatly with the growing activity-based tour business.  They will do especially well to target the 60+ age segment with marketing, products and services tailored to that group.
Tours that offer participation in cultural activities, environmental projects and educational opportunities will also enjoy soaring growth.  Many travelers want to do much more than relax or shop while on tours—they want to get to know and understand the local people, help solve local problems and enrich their own lives in the process.
A select set of seniors can be extremely active and athletic.  Older athletes are competing in senior and “masters” events, often setting startling records of speed and endurance.  Many athletes in their 60s are either discovering exceptional ability for the first time or nurturing and toning up athletic prowess that they haven’t taken time to use in decades.  Runners, tennis players, swimmers, cyclists and track and field participants well past 50, 60 and even 70 years of age are performing well (sometimes brilliantly).  For example, Jeanne Daprano, a former third grade schoolteacher, entered masters track events for the first time in her late 40s.  In her seventieth year, she became the first woman to break the seven-minute mile past age 70, running the distance in 6:46.91.  At age 75, in 2012, she set world records in her age bracket for runs of 400 meters, 800 meters and one mile.


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