Older parenting may eventually tax society

Articles
July 30, 2009

Older parenting may eventually tax society

The next time you see a silver-haired man with a toddler, or a woman with a few tell-tale wrinkles coddling a newborn, don’t be so fast to congratulate them on being grandparents. It may, after all, be their first time around with kids.

The next time you see a silver-haired man with a toddler, or a woman with a few tell-tale wrinkles coddling a newborn, don’t be so fast to congratulate them on being grandparents. It may, after all, be their first time around with kids.

Yes, Boomers who have redefined life as they’ve gone through their multiple stages (and the not-quite Boomers) now want to be called mommy and daddy. Hopefully the vast majority is still healthful and active enough to tend to children’s needs, and provide the full gamut of play and other experiences that help them develop. 

Figures aren’t definitive on how many now want children for the first time. But the Boston Globe did some research and came up with indicators:  The birthrate in Massachusetts in 2007 for women ages 40 to 44 was more than 70% higher than in 1990. For women 45 and older, it nearly tripled. And “nationally, on the heels of advances in fertility treatments, births to mothers 50 and up have increased by an average of 15% a year since 1997,” the paper reported.

While the point of this web site is to provoke thought about how this trend will affect brand marketers and retailers in countless ways, we’ll venture forth in this essay to comment on the societal ramifications as well. In no way are we judging individual parenthood decisions, but there could be a big tab to pay, not only by affected family members but by society as a whole.

First, marketers and chains will need new, inventive approaches that appeal to the diverse needs of these multi-generational households. Think everything from package form to store formats. Perhaps pricing may mean less to more secure older parents with greater resources, and offering them household-related and even medical services might be the ticket to loyalty. The list only begins with these points.

Second, SupermarketGuru.com is taking the liberty of wondering out loud about the potential long-term effects of late parenting. It’s not all brightness and light (and we’re not even touching on the health risks to newborns). Will we have a generation of new moms 50+ who die by the time their kids graduate from college? Many kids may never get to share a mid-life experience with their mom or dad? Many moms and dads will never get to see their grandchildren.

Certainly, younger people benefit from the leadership and mentoring of older relatives who love them, and society benefits too because their smarter life decisions collectively help the whole. These generational connections could well be missing from these families. And that will be tough on all.