Category: Health

California Seniors are Driving Cannabis Growth

shutterstock_1054640075 From hippies to hip pain

32 states have passed cannabis usage into law for medical purposes. California was the first over 23 years ago.  10 states have done the same for recreational use. You may be surprised to learn that Seniors are leading the charge  embracing the benefits of medicinal cannabis as well as indulging in the pleasures stemming from recreational use.

Our conventional image of ‘pot’ users dates back to the 60’s when today’s Seniors were experimenting with all kinds of drugs. Despite the legal consequences and risk of incarceration back then, those free-spirited offenders, now in their sixties and beyond, thought the risk was worth it. These people are now your parents or grandparents!

The stigma once tied to marijuana or cannabis usage has given way to Starbucks-like retail dispensaries – well-lit and well stocked with products designed to enhance your mood, sex life, daily exercise regimen, and address a variety of aches and pains.

According to a national survey of nearly 50,000 responders, the Drug Use and Health study of patients 50-64 found using marijuana daily or weekly rose 58% between 2002 and 2014. Patients 60+ have shown an increase in use of 250%. These growth rates by the original adopters are fastest among all user groups. Talk about influencers!

Such response to legal use has not gone unnoticed by the financial and investment community despite marijuana continuing to be classified as a schedule 1 drug along with heroin. All of Canada will sell legal cannabis for medical and recreational use this October. And year over year growth is stoking the fires of American firms anxious to invest here.

While the debate around addiction to opioids goes on, Seniors and  the medical community have embraced usage of hemp-based CBD products as well as recreational use of cannabis products.CBD products, whether edible or in liquid, lotion or tablet form, provide needed relief from disorders associated with aging that up to now have led to a pill popping addiction.

AARP has created a list of ‘alternatives to pills’ for Seniors over 65 wary of the side effects from a heavy dependence from their medicine cabinet. This includes dependence for medical issues such as:

  1. Heart failure
  2. Increase in blood pressure
  3. Stomach bleeding and ulcers
  4. Confusion
  5. Toxic kidneys
  6. Seizures
  7. Hallucinations
  8. Stroke
  9. Tremors

Replacing as many as 5 or 6 pills with a CBD derivative product is driving acceptance among Seniors and they’re sharing the results with family and physicians.

All this adoption by Seniors is speeding the process of legalization in the remaining states to help fuel the projected to growth to $50 billion by 2025 (Grand View Research). When you realize that 100 years have passed since prohibition ended and today the US liquor industry will generate $81 billion sales in 2019, it won’t take many growing cycles for the cannabis industry to reach or exceed that number. Especially considering that the brewers of Corona and Heineken are among those developing ‘infused beverages’ using a low percentage of THC.

Marketers sitting on the fence about targeting aging consumers will soon realize that those who are 55 and older are not that different today than they were 10 to 20 years earlier. The exception being they have extra years of wisdom, significantly more wealth, and the freedom to live the next couple of decades doing exactly what they want.

Smart marketers should follow the money trail Seniors are blazing in the cannabis industry and many other product categories missed by holding to tightly to the 18-49 crowd. Their marketing insights  may point to the vast sums you’re leaving on the table.

It Takes a Skilled “Geek” to help California Seniors Age in Place


Best Buy jumps headfirst into The Longevity Economy by adding the aging population to its strategic tech targets.

Advertisers and brands are starting to wake up as the impact of aging on the world’s wealthiest countries point to significant new revenue targets. Joseph Coughlin, founder of the MIT Age Lab and author of The Longevity Economyputs it this way:

“The emerging population isn’t just big, it’s so enormous it’s as though a new continent were rising out of the sea, filled with more than a billion air-breathing consumers just begging for products that fulfill their demands.”

Best Buy has put their money where their phone chargers are and in doing so, made it clear they intend to play a big role targeting this huge opportunity.  By offering new monitoring services and in-home tech,together with strategic hospital partnerships and acquisitions like Great Call last August, Best Buy is doubling down on Boomers, their aging parents and caregivers. This isn’t about a media buy, it’s the leading tech retailer pivoting to execute a defined senior marketing strategy.

We are trying to position the company for the future” says Best Buy CEO, Hubert Joly,There is going to be greater and greater differentiation between winners and losers. And so, this is clearly the time to invest.” 

90% of those 65 and older have said they don’t want to move from their home into an assisted living community. This refrain has inspired Best Buy to create Assured Living and Best Buy Home.

Assured Living is aimed at Boomers who want to honor their parents request to remain independent as they age in place. The ability to ‘monitor and check-in’ via any internet connected devise is the gift of peace of mind to both generations.

Best Buy launched Assured Living is validated by their expertise and core competency in the consumer retail technology sector. Services focus on monitoring, real-time alerts, insight into daily activity levels, sleep patterns, and diet, all presented via a personalized dash board. All starting at $29.99 a month. Tech support from the Geek Squad has been enhanced as part of the new Best Buy Home offering house calls to install and train.

Next came a partnership bringing medical expertise from the Mayo Clinic. Together they offer aging consumers wellness assessment tools covering everything from various symptoms and basic diagnosis to proper meal planning and physical activity regiments. Driving sales for Best Buy is a consistent introduction of new products.

Apple’s newest Watch 4 is an activity monitor, tracker,and First Alert device on your wrist. Like Best Buy, Apple recognized the magnitude of this aging population wave and made dramatic design changes with their latest model which propelled first full year of sales upward to 32% YOY.

Amazon recently revealed several elements of their senior facing healthcare strategy built around their smart speaker leadership. And Alexa is finding its way into hospital surgery wards as doctors collect critical knowledge about post-op patient recovery and follow up.

While healthcare marketers and their agencies have had patients and industry providers as targets mostly to themselves for years, virtually every retailer who serves a consumer 55+ or their Boomer offspring, can establish a viable senior-centric marketing strategy. The facts are clear, the longer one ages independently, the longer they continue to shop, consume and visit the retailers who ‘welcome’ their business.

Ask yourself these assessment areas as you consider your own senior marketing strategic journey:

  1. What portion of your core product mix is purchased by 55+?
  2. Does your marketing aimed at Seniors speak directly to them as a distinct customer segment?
  3. What products aimed at aging in place consumers could your business leverage?

It all begins by thinking past the trap of limiting your marketing to 18 to 49 year olds!

A Fun Way to Market to California Seniors


The marketing opportunity to educate California seniors about the benefits of having fun and how your product fits into that fun lifestyle.

In a fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal written by Clare Ansberry, she quotes Ken Dychtwald, CEO of Age Way,

“Seniors have more time to have fun—7 1/2 hours of leisure a day compared with 35-to-44 year olds, who have only around 4 hours.”

He goes on to presume that “older adults are at a loss for how to fill that time” which he says may explain why the average retiree watches 48 hours of TV each week. (Nielsen)

Ms. Ansberry goes on to write

“But many adults forget how to have fun. They’ve spent the past 40 years showing up for work every day, paying off mortgages, getting kids through school and taking care of aging parents. Having fun and being spontaneous – key elements of fun and play—get lost. Fun is important at every age, but can be even more beneficial as we grow older. The very things associated with it—laughter, levity, enjoyment and diversion can act as antidotes to stress, depression, and anxiety.”

In California, year-round outdoor activities can add to a fun, healthy and happy senior lifestyle. In an article entitled 7 Reasons Why People Age Better in California, Ann Brenoff writes that

“Californians, in general, are happier. Among other things she says, “exposure to sunlight combats depression and lifts spirits.”

And there are so many opportunities here to hike, bike, ski, play tennis and golf, enjoy the beach and enjoy the latest craze, pickleball. Maybe the California active lifestyle is a big reason why the life expectancy of 80.8 is the 4th highest of any state. And more importantly, California’s “healthy life expectancy”, which factors in illness and injury, is 67.7 which ranks 3rd in the U.S.

Of course, outdoor activities aren’t the only way to have fun. People have a wide variety of choices of how to have fun and play. As a California senior, while I enjoy outdoor activities like playing golf and going to the beach, I also love to go to movies and restaurants with my wife and friends, hang out with my kids, relax with a glass of wine or two, and get ready for this, I have fun at work. Without a passion for something, without a fun and active life, you’ve got a sedentary lifestyle. And a sedentary lifestyle is associated with decreased mental alertness, higher levels of stress, poor sleep quality, low self-worth, higher rates of disability, and diminished quality of life (Worldatlas) Now does that sound fun?

In his book, The Longevity Economy: Unlocking the World’s Fastest-Growing, Most Misunderstood Market, Dr. Joseph Coughlin talks about new ways to redefine seniors as a marketing opportunity.

“We’re living longer than ever and these bonus years are opening up vast new possibilities for products, services, and experiences.” He adds “Building the future of fun in a society where 100 years old is the new normal is perhaps the longevity economy’s largest growth opportunity.”

Photo by Benjamin Morris

CMOs Can Build a Winning California Senior Strategy by Targeting Caregivers


Women aren’t just the caregiver, they’re the money managers too!

Every day for the next 20 years, 10,000 people in the U.S. will turn 65. Many will seek the help of a caregiver. Most will want to “age in place” and stay in their own home. Women will be the likely choice to provide the care and make their home the alternative to a senior care facility.

This fact alone should encourage CMOs to evaluate their brand offering with a senior strategy in mind and aimed at California seniors. And it starts with caregivers.

Why are women called The Chief Consumption Officers for the elderly?

  • They control 80%of the household wealth –
  • They outlive men, on average, by 7 years.
  • At 65 years old, their life expectancy is an additional 20+ more years.
  • Women will continue to consume and shop long after the passing of their husband
  • While some men act as caregivers, largely as the handyman, women are the nurturers – stemming from their maternal duties parenting.
  • The instinct to care for a child is essentially the same as caring for an adult- feeding, bathing, dressing and driving

Aging and women are at ease together because women possess the responsibility gene more so than men. Long before Siri or Alexia, there was the woman of the household… the one doing the chores, nursing, shopping, carpooling, banking and overseeing the repairs and attending to the needs and happiness of the family.

It’s not just hands-on care: 8 percent of baby boomers, 13 percent of Generation X and 19 percent of millennials are financially supporting a parent to the tune of $12,000 a year, according to a survey of 1,000 adults released this summer from TD Ameritrade.

Of the two sexes,  the women is the natural planner.  It has been said, when it comes to retirement, men are looking forward to relaxing – women are planning to grow old. 

Which is how they approach the role of caregiver. They develop a plan – what to buy, where to shop, and how to make that budget last. For CMOs, this consumer behavior is easy to track and target. By focusing on the women controlling the plan, the opportunities open up every day for new product entries.

But with the growing need for caregiving, there is both a talent pool issue and a silver lining on the horizon.

According to an AARP Public Policy Institute study, the ratio of caregivers to adults is dropping – now at 7 to 1. By 2030, this number nearly cuts in half to a ratio of 4 to 1. Caregiver tools and services are waiting to be innovated or created from an existing brand, with a senior benefit and dedicated marketing commitment. One opportunity could focus on California caregiver recruitment and retention. For those willing to follow the money, the potential is real.

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Retailers – Best Buy, Amazon and CVS are Targeting California Seniors


Some retailers are already embracing California’s “Silver Rush”

Seniors in American will top nearly 100 million over the next 20 years. And Best Buy, CVS and Amazon are not waiting to invest and build a relationship with the wealthiest consumer segment in the country.

Having just completed the $800 million purchase of Great Call, Best Buy sees the potential in focusing on an active, aging population.

“Today, 42 million Americans are caring for the needs of an aging family member. Great Call is dedicated to supporting caregivers with the latest information and resources.”

Great Call’s 900,000 paying subscriber base hit $300 million in revenue this year. The Golden State alone represents several hundred million in reoccurring subscription sales from California seniors.

They call it “connected help and personal emergency response” backed with real time, live, medical specialists and a suite of devices for helping seniors to remember their meds, self-diagnose a current health concern, and provide urgent assistance in an emergency.

Best Buy saw the potential with seniors, the wealthiest customer base, with trends pointing to their long life expectancy and continued consumer consumption.

“Now we have the opportunity to serve the aging population by combining GreatCall’s expertise with Best Buy’s unique merchandising, marketing, sales and services capacities.” Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly

Healthcare to seniors has always been a key discipline for the pharmacy retailer community. Just as Best Buy announced their GreatCall deal, CVS, with nearly 10,000 locations nationwide and approaching 900 locations in California alone, is bringing video healthcare to all population groups.

For seniors who have rapidly embraced technology usage, this move from CVS creates a stronger loyalty and link between senior shoppers and their more active lifestyles as well as their quest for information. CVS just increased accessibility for millions of California seniors with its CVS Minute Clinic rollout. This big news means time saving and more personal access to nurse practitioners, physicians, and assistants from their home or mobile device for $59 per online use.

CVS is smart to expand more boomer-oriented services in the medical field. This is because Amazon, the mother of all retailer disruption, is yet another company that is focusing even harder on America’s healthcare system and seniors.

Amazon spent $1 billion to buy Pill Pack, the online pharmacy that provides pre-packed doses, coordinates refills, and assures on time delivery. Needless to say, it fits right into the Amazon model.

Amazon has also formed an alliance with JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway to help drive down the costs of healthcare to their employees. These moves further underscore the fight over consumer’s healthcare expenditures, and a battle for senior loyalty and market share which CMOs should embrace.

Acquisitions and innovations like Best Buy, CVS and Amazon may seem just like another investment from three high volume players. But it’s driven in part by the ‘silver’ found in California’s hills–the nation’s largest senior adult population.

California seniors will be in their prime ‘healthcare utilization’ for years as many will choose to work well beyond age 65. As a result, CMOs across the retail spectrum should be asking – “what can our brand do to build trust and business from a dedicated senior strategy?” It’s time to join the “Silver Rush”.

Photo by Lakov Filmonov

Exercise and Surfing. Important Factors in Marketing to California Seniors


How marketers can benefit from the healthy and active California senior lifestyle.

Californians have the led the country in a variety of trends over the years. And none have been more important than the trend of seniors living longer and healthier lives. As stated by Elder Options On-line Directory (EO),

“As you grow older, an active lifestyle is more important than ever. Regular exercise can help boost energy, maintain your independence, and manage symptoms of aging. And not only is exercise good for your body—it’s also good for your mind, mood, and memory.”

Similarly, in an article titled 7 benefits of exercise for the Elderly, BT reports that weight-bearing exercise and regular cardiovascular exercise such as brisk walking can help people live longer lives, prevent falls, reduce the risk of stroke or heart attack, increase bone density, reduce the risk of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, prevent or delay diseases, and improve confidence.

The California lifestyle is more conducive to exercise because of its weather, geography and youthful attitude. Seniors are walking, hiking, bicycling, skiing, playing tennis, golf, and pickleball to name a few active pastimes. They’re also surfing! In fact, it’s estimated that of California’s 7,000,000 seniors, over 200,000 surf regularly. And according to the San Diego Surfing School, there are some real benefits of surfing for seniors such as:

  1. Seniors who surf will burn up to 400 calories per hour
  2. Since surfing uses all limbs, seniors will have a thorough workout
  3. Surfing is a form of exercise that benefits their minds and bodies
  4. Surfing is a great sport to encourage socializing with fellow surfing enthusiasts
  5. Connecting with nature, particularly the beach, gives seniors a whole new level of experience that makes them feel younger and more vital

Surfing for Life, a 68-minute documentary, shows profiles of some of surfing’s most famous legends riding the waves into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. The film highlights Californian John “Doc” Ball who at 93 is the oldest known American surfer. And as “Doc” puts it, “The sea is great medicine. It keeps you young.”

California recently declared surfing as the state’s “Official Sport.” Says State Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, who sponsored the declaration,

“I think surfing really stands apart not only for being an iconic part of California’s culture, but also for the environmental message of respecting and protecting our ocean and our environment.”

Plus, Muratsuchi estimates that surfing generates more than $6B to the state’s economy each year.

California marketers who picture seniors living sedentary lifestyles need to re-think this active and vital demographic. And there’s an untapped financial reason to do so. After all, seniors control nearly 50% of spending in the state, yet receive only 10% of marketing dollars! (AARP) There’s an opportunity to not only market products that are related to their many and varied active pursuits, but there is an equally important opportunity to market the attitude of a healthy, active and positive older consumer. Just envision a smiling and fit senior coming out the surf holding their board. If that’s not a reminder of the opportunity of this population segment, I don’t know what is.

Photo by Rawpixel


History Repeats Itself. California’s “Silver Rush” for Seniors is on. 


In 1848, they were called California prospectors – today, they’re called CMOs

The history of California is all about the Gold Rush. 1848 Sutter’s Mill. Eureka! You know the story. When James Marshall discovered gold in January, ’48 the rush was on. Today it should be called the “Silver Rush” and the mining should be done by CMOs.

California experienced its first immigration wave from prospectors and business opportunists from around the world. Three quarters of the men in San Francisco left the city to pan for their fortune. Ironically, those who benefited the most financially were not the miners but rather than merchants who really struck it rich, selling what was needed to prospect for gold.

The “Silver Rush” is set to dwarf the riches unearthed in the 1850’s as our aging population is set to live longer and healthier and spend more than ever as they do. Consider this:

  • In 1900, life expectancy in the U.S. was 47 years.
  • Today, it’s 80. Researchers predict ½ of babies born today will live to 100.
  • Healthier aging today will add 20 years to a senior’s life.
  • Better medicine, healthier habits, and active, working seniors are set to spend trillions as they age.

California Seniors will be the largest demographic group in the near future. The impact on the world’s 5th largest economy is waiting for CMOs to prospect directly to Californians whose longevity stats, coupled with spending power, mean rich targets of opportunity for CMOs prepared to commit dedicated messaging to them.

The retirement age is nothing more than a number as seniors are continuing to work or start second careers. Marketers have the best tools on earth to better target these seniors and yet, to date, most traditional brands are underspending against them, using the same creative as they use for younger consumers, or ignoring them altogether.

Just as prospectors 150 years ago needed tools to unearth a vein of gold or minerals containing silver, the future is waiting for CMOs who venture out West to mine the richest deposits of age, wisdom, and wealth in history. History can repeat itself in very positive ways for those who learn from it.

Photo by the National Library of Ireland on The Commons The Quays in Sligo via photopin (license)

About Brad Ball

Co-Author of The Silver Rush: Marketing to the California Senior; Partner Silver Advertising- former- CMO SkyZone; VP Entetainment NASCAR, President Theatrical Marketing Warner Bros;CMO McDonald’s, Partner DBC Advertising.

photo credit: State Library of Queensland, Australia Miners working in a gold mine at Gympie, Queensland Miners Gympie Qld via photopin (license)

A CMO’s Key to Billions in Revenue from California’s Senior Consumers


It starts where older consumers want to live – in their own home.

Aging in place is really just ‘living in the same place as an older consumer’.  

As a former CMO, I wasn’t familiar with the concept of ‘aging in place’ until my parent’s health declined. Over a 7 year period, they went from fully functioning people living in the same home for the past 25 years, to in-home nursing care and then, to full-time nursing care. We promised to keep them in their home as long as possible until medical attention and 24 hr. care necessitated the move.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that aging and consuming have huge marketing potential when viewed together.

The aging of our population is having a profound impact on the economy. For CMOs that embrace the opportunity that comes with a dedicated ‘senior strategy’ vs. ‘we cover them off with our existing budget’, the true winners are a more respected and loyal senior consumer base. Not to mention the enhanced CMO job security that comes with increased market share.

Consider this:

  • Globally, by 2047 more 60+ year olds will overtake those younger in 15, G7 countries.
  • If you reach 60 in ‘full health’, U.S. seniors can live an average of 19 years longer

The financial wealth attributed to those who continue to work and those who stay active is staggering.  In the U.S., seniors control over 50% of our country’s discretionary income.

Aging in place is all about the life seniors led up to this point. They stay in their own home for all the obvious reasons –   closer to friends/neighbors, favorite restaurants and shopping and maybe most of all, they avoid the trauma of starting over.

It’s also about remaining independent–to drive, shop, travel, and socialize as if they were 25 years younger. Mobility and one’s home are life extenders.

With 2.3 trillion dollars in their possession on a national level, seniors retired or not, never fully retire from consuming goods and services. In fact, seniors outspend in almost every category compared to what younger consumers spend.

Aging in place means  keeping the aging family member in their home longer. Home builders are listening. Remodeling businesses and DIY home centers are the big winners, especially for those who are passionate about doing it themselves and have the time and money. And it signals they’re planning to continue their life’s routine – work, travel, and fun. In other words, they continue to spend as they stay independent.

A higher percentage of 65+ continue to work. And spend, controlling over 50% of discretionary income in the U.S. As they work well past the retirement age, advances in medicine, and more active, healthier living, mean marketers can look to another two decades of targeted, personalized and appreciative shopping.

Aging in place offers CMOs real opportunities to continue marketing across multiple categories to consumers who don’t view another birthday as a sign to call to the movers!

Photo by Fotoluminate LLC


California Seniors are Driving New Car Growth


Here’s why older drivers are good news for CMOs!

The Golden State is turning Silver. Seniors (55+) are growing at the fastest rate of any age group in California and across the U.S.. And turning 65-years old brings with it the prospect to retire, start a second career and play more golf. But in every case, the desire and reality of driving your own car remains a key element in maintaining your lifestyle and connections. Over 26 million registered drivers live in California and statistically more and more are 70+.

California has 12% of the total U.S. new-vehicle registrations and its car dealer network at $120 billion in sales a year should get a CMOs attention.  Seniors are a big segment of these buyers.

On a national basis, the older-driver segment is growing the fastest:

  • Drivers over 50-years old reached nearly 93.5 million in 2013 – an increase of 22 percent since 2003 – resulting in 44 % of total licensed drivers.
  • Drivers over 85 years old remain the fastest growing demographic group, nearly doubling from 1.76 million in 1998 to 3.48 million in 2013 – the second-highest amount ever recorded.
  • Drivers age 60 and older represented almost 26 percent of all licensed drivers in 2014, up from 20 percent in 2004. (

Given the age wave, CMOs should dig into the importance and psychological impact that driving holds for this older consumer segment. Nothing defines senior independence more than having a current driver’s license and their own car or access to one. Studies have shown an increase in mortality rates and depression among those who have had their license revoked or not renewed.

The California DMV has extended the renewal rate to every 5 years. This is in large part due to a reduction in driving accidents and mortality linked to seniors in California. Seniors are more likely to regulate their driving times, (i.e. more daytime driving than at night) and limit their annual miles driven.

Also, seniors have the financial ability to finance, lease, or simply keep their current car on the road. Given the wealth held by seniors – their outright cash used to purchase is highest of any buyer segment. When it comes to highway safety, Californian statistics further demonstrate that younger drivers are more likely to be in an accident than seniors.

Auto manufactures are making driver-assist safety features that bodes especially well for seniors thanks to these technology options:

  • FCW – forward collision warning alerts
  • AEB -automatic emergency braking
  • LDA -lane departure assist
  • BSW – blind spot warnings act as seat companions for seniors drivers

The opportunity for brands and services built around automobile usage by seniors is another marketing opportunity. As every car owners learns, the monthly payment is just the beginning. – tires, service, parts and fuel as well as insurance, body shops, and personalized accessories marketed with a ‘senior sensibility’ could yield added loyalty and sales.

Seniors are ‘service oriented’ – they appreciate the extra attention often needed when shopping or trying something new for the first time. Imagine a bold, daring idea by one of the big oil companies – pumping gas for senior drivers at the self-service rate. Talk about differentiation!

CMOs can find competitive advantages and build highly targeted and compelling connections with California senior drivers – whether they emphasize the newest driver assist features or reminders that encourage seniors to leverage their independence and go take a drive.

Photo by Russian Guzov