What can we learn from the intersection between ageing and disability?

People with disabilities are not a homogeneous group, as each person has unique skills and abilities which impact their unique desires.

The same can be said of ageing consumers. The key difference between older and younger consumers is their physiological ageing and consumer behaviour doesn’t change much with age. But when the physical effects of ageing become serious enough to be termed ‘disabilities’ we reach the inevitable intersection between ageing and disability.

With this in mind, I found value in the insights from a recent Nielsen study on shopping habits of consumers with disabilities.

While our work is based on 25 effects of ageing, the Nielsen report focusses on 6 disabilities, the first three of which are ageing related. Independent Living is termed a disability, but to my mind this confuses the cause (physical/vision/hearing etc) with the effect;2016-11-15_12-35-31

  1. Physical limitations (have serious difficulty walking or climbing stairs, lifting or grasping)
  2. Vision difficulty ( blind or have serious difficulty seeing, even when wearing glasses or contacts)
  3. Hearing difficulty (deaf or have serious difficulty hearing even with a hearing aid)
  4. Independent Living Difficulty (because of a physical, mental, or emotional problem, have difficulty doing errands alone such as visiting a doctor’s office or shopping)
  5. Learning Disability (have difficulty learning at expected level, such as reading, writing, math)
  6. Intellectual Disability (autism, down syndrome, or onset prior to 18 years of age had serious difficulty in intellectual functioning and adaptive)

In terms of real consumption, the chart shows the dollars spent by category index vs all other households. I was surprised to see that consumers with a disability, driven by two of the ‘older’ disability groups: physical and independent living difficulties are more likely to purchase Tobacco!

Perhaps the greatest learning we can take from this study is that ageing and disabilities aside, we are all consumers that need to satisfy our daily needs beyond the stereotypes of assistive devices and aids.