Ah, yes. We’ve all seen those vitamin ads for 50+ folks, featuring lively, fit, silver-haired couples with great teeth enjoying sailing or biking; they’re happy and healthy because they’ve taken a daily vitamin and feel 17 again.

It’s easy to think that this is overblown marketing, but there’s an element of truth in these campaigns: Aging isn’t what it used to be and traditional “senior” products—including life and annuity products—must match the changing needs of this group or risk obsolescence. Bending with the trend is the way to stay relevant with this market.


So, what, in fact, is a “senior” in 2020?

The short answer is it’s “under construction” because the Baby Boomers (born 1946-64) are busy redefining senior-dom. And that’s typical of this group.

Baby Boomers are catalysts for change and have been at it since birth: jarred Gerber baby food, Frisbees, disposable diapers, the Beatles, and the innovation list goes on as they age.

The Boomer impact on aging-thinking is huge; they’re transforming the concept of “senior” from an assigned age to an attitude.

When you think about “what is a senior,” you wouldn’t define it anymore as someone 65 or older, says Brandon Bullock, Director, Life Product Innovation & Strategy at Aspida. “I think it’s now more a matter of how you view yourself; it’s not necessarily an age or a capability.”

“My experience with Baby Boomers has been that they’re fighting aging tooth and nail,” says Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky, psychologist, international speaker and consultant specializing in generational behaviors and trends.

Even the risk indicators for insuring this group need reconsideration.

“Actuarial numbers look backwards,” says Grodnitzky. “This is a generation that’s like no other. Your hindsight actuarial numbers can only provide a framework, but they’re not going to be able to predict for this group like they have in the past.”

The Wellness Factor

Active longevity is a distinguishing Boomer characteristic and reality—due largely to medical advances that make living longer possible.

Yet, while over-60s are living longer and may be more active, the hard truth is they’re living longer with chronic conditions than previous generations.

When designing “life insurance products, features, and selling points, you must balance pricing assumptions and experience with the reality that people are living longer than they ever have before but with chronic, and sometimes, serious illnesses,” says Bullock.

With Alzheimer’s disease, for instance, drugs are under development that may not cure but can substantially slow disease progression, meaning people live longer with the disease.

Because Alzheimer’s starts with mental/cognitive impairment and progresses to physical impairment, “you could be the most physically fit person in the world and live for years with this debilitating condition,” says Bullock.

A similar prolonged-life model is emerging for heart attack and cancer. Often, individuals that suffer a heart attack become proponents of good health, says Bullock.

“They had a wake-up call and changed their lifestyle and dietary habits. Not too long ago, that heart attack would have been most certainly fatal.”

And cancer patients now are living with their diagnoses well beyond what were once expected time frames.

“Chemotherapy and new drug treatments are helping cancer patients to ‘hold things at bay’ until a new drug or, time willing, a cure is discovered,” says Bullock.

Rethink the Payout Arc

Creating products that fit the needs of a demographic that’s living longer with chronic illnesses requires pragmatic thinking about the timing of payouts, specifically focused on when the money’s needed most and for how long.

Take, for instance, insuring for critical illness. Thanks to advances in technology, we are surviving critical illnesses that may have been fatal in the past. Today, stand-alone critical illness policies and riders provide coverage to pay for out-of-pocket expenses associated with covered conditions, says Bullock.

“With proper planning, a critical illness policy can provide living benefits following a critical illness and help prevent an impact to finances,” he says. “You want to be able to concentrate on recovering, not worrying about depleting assets to cover costs.”

Customers now want and need insurance products that they can draw from over time rather than the old-style, one-time payout model.

And that is why you’re starting to see the advent of combo insurance products that take what used to be independent product solutions like life insurance or critical illness or long-term care and combine them, so there’s more value in that contract, says Bullock.

Life insurance could cover sudden early death and pay out the face amount of the policy immediately at 100 percent, as well as be designed to cover long-term needs that could arise from chronic conditions as longevity increases.

The idea is that if a customer starts “to develop long-term care needs later in life,” he or she “can start to draw out payment as needed over a period of time,” says Bullock.

Baby Boomers Return to Campus Life

Insuring for long-term stays in senior campus communities that offer a complete spectrum of care—from independent apartments to post-acute care and hospice—as acuity increases, could be a bonanza product that would attract baby boomers.

The spectrum-of-care campus is a model created for and by boomers, says Grodnitzky. And these have exploded.

If you look at the leading edge of baby boomers, they’re moving to smaller housing. Creating an insurance vehicle “that tracks those needs and follows them from independent living to increasing care,” makes a lot of sense, says Grodnitzky.

“They’re accustomed to paying an annual premium for life insurance. It would be very easy to transfer that premium to an insurance vehicle that would follow them for the rest of their lives. Most aren’t going to want to burn through savings to have 24-hour care at home.”