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In 2012, the ONS (Office for National Statistics) said that those aged 65 and over will account for 23% of the total UK population by 2035.

It is essential that the product and service needs of these older consumers are understood, and that their buying power is not underestimated.

Dr Gabriella Spinelli of Brunel University London has been tackling this problem by working with the charity Age UK. Her work involves developing and evaluating products and services that can assist communication, improve the range of choice that older people have and enhance their mobility.

Dr Spinelli’s team interviewed over 100 older consumers, distributed a questionnaire to over 1500 people aged 50-94 and surveyed 75 SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and large corporations in the UK. Spinelli identified five specific marketing segments for older consumers: self-perception of age, attitudes, behaviour, values and needs.

Her findings have enabled Age UK to develop and strengthenEngage, a business network that includes organisations such as BskyB, Atoc, BT, Virgin and Homebase.Engage consults with Dr Spinelli and Age UK in order to improve services and products for their older customers.


“I valued the whole process; talking to real users through to designing with ageing consumers in mind”

(Member of Engage)

Dr Spinelli says that it is important to focus on the context of social resources available to the older consumer. This is important in order to understand how the individual chooses a product or service.

For example, an older individual might not use a smart phone unless they get support in setting up the device, from either a family member or from assistance in the shop.

Spinelli’s research has contributed to an understanding of the product and service needs of the elderly. The research has also led to Age UK’s network growth in 2 years from seven companies to forty. This growth has enabled the charity to diversify its revenue stream by offering consultancy services.

The research has also increased awareness of the product and service needs of an ageing population, helping to improve the lives of elderly people.

This is part of a stream of research within the Operations and Information Systems Management Research Group (OISM).


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