Last week, I watched an older shopper with a walker work her way down the aisle at the grocery store. As I watched her make her way past the frozen pizzas, it suddenly hit me, why are walkers so damn ugly? They're terrible. They're boxy and they have that dull silver finish that makes your hands smell metallic.
So I puzzled, why are women settling for something so creepy looking? Why not make them look a little streamlined and, if I may say so, a little sexy?
I guess no one sees the elderly or infirm as having fashion sense. They just write them off as being willing to take just about anything. It's our culture's form of putting them on an iceberg and letting them float out to sea.
We better change that outlook because there are a whole lot of baby boomers on the express lane to old age and most of them do not intend to go easy. This is a fighting generation that wants to stay young.
Design engineers are looking at one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime to develop new products that will not only reap great financial rewards, but will also provide fashion and safety. How big will these rewards be?
According to www.seniorjournal.com the US Census bureau is projecting that starting in 2011, the 65 and over population is going to grow faster than the population in each of the 50 states. The actual population of senior citizen consumers is going to grow from 33 million people in 2000 to 45 million people in 2015 and to a whopping 62 million in 2025. That's a whole lot of shoppers.
So, it's time design engineers started developing elder care products that are great looking. It's time that we started gearing up for the next chapter of the baby boom generation.
Here are some questions that design engineers should be asking themselves about how they are going to be selling to this cohort five years from now:
Scrabble games with oversized tiles that are easier to read and pick up.
High fashion hip pads, similar to what football players wear, that are either thin enough to be worn on the inside of clothes or fashionable enough to worn on the outside. Look great and avoid a hip fracture.
Sure-step shoes that look cool but keep you on your feet? If that's not enough, what about the application of gyroscopes to solve the problem. Something that keeps a person upright and on their feet like a segway does with wheels.
And who will make these products? Whatever brands are brands of choice for baby boomers now will be the same ones they choose later.
Everlast hip pads anyone? How about Honda or Harley powered wheelchairs? Who wouldn't want to be seen with a Donna Karan walker, Adidas sure step shoes, and of course, Sony or iPod hearing aids.
The large percentage of these products may need to be purchased on the Internet. After all, older shoppers aren't as mobile. If so, what about simpler keyboards with fewer, large keys, or∑big computer screens with jumbo fonts, or computers with bean bag bottoms that can rest in a lap and be used while lying or sitting?
Whoever caters to baby boomers now will have the best chance to cater to them later. Most importantly, whoever invents and designs for the senior shopper now will make a whole lot of money sooner and later.
It's going to be a brave new world for all of us. We're all going to get older. Let's do it with style.
Reach Gottlieb at Rgottlieb7@nyc.rr.com.