According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration on Aging, the life expectancy for women is approaching 80 years. That's six years longer than men, FYI. Furthermore, in 2001, women accounted for approximately 58% of those age 60 and older and 70% of those 85 and older.

As author Dr. Ken Dychtwald, chairman of Age Wave Communications puts it, “During the next 20 years, the number of 50+ Americans will grow by a whopping 40 million people. And as the mature segment of our society continues to shift from being the poorest to the richest, companies and industries that can sensitively and creatively meet their needs are posed for explosive growth.”

Especially in these days of health supplements, stretching classes, elder hostels, and more, you just can't define by age alone those of us who have lived the longest. Like the rest of us, older women (I'm generally referring to those 60+) want to be respected and heard simply as the life-experienced people that they are.

So if you want older women to spend their money on your goods or services...just say no to images of blue-haired people sitting around on a cruise-ship deck, playing cards in polyester and pearls.

What Defines "Older Women"

I went to an expert who has access to roughly 40,000 older women to learn more about the interests and buying behavior of the unfamiliar and often unacknowledged older segment of the women's market.

Tam Gray, a marketing consultant and the publisher of Senior Women Web has found that her readers and friends are all interested in the usual topics of the day, from science, politics, and computing to career changes, gossip, theater, and sports. The difference is that these women have “a group memory that could stretch back as far as the 1920s or further.”

The issues that strike a chord with them, and the cues for their product research and buying behaviors, derive from this broad range of knowledge and consumer experience; so, pegging them as consumers might be a bit more complex than you think.

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image of Andrea Learned
Andrea Learned is a noted author, blogger, and expert on gender-based consumer behavior. Her current focus is on sustainability from both the consumer and the organizational perspectives. Andrea contributes to the Huffington Post and provides sustainability-focused commentary for Vermont Public Radio.