Senior citizens are new, dynamic consumer group

«Young» elderly people in Greece, especially when they have a satisfactory pension, are beginning to change the traditional image of the Greek grandpa and granny. They have a social life, they go to the theater or the cinema frequently, they meet friends for meals, and they travel – to the extent that their finances permit. It’s not surprising that the market sees over-65s as a new, dynamic consumer group and is adjusting to this changing state of affairs. Tourism is the sector where the signs of this change in the way of is the most evident. Over the past few years, travel agents have observed a steady rise in the number of elderly people traveling in Greece and abroad. «There are usually two large, organized groups,» Vangelis Bivolaris, owner of the Superior Travel agency told Kathimerini. «On the one hand, we have trips by the KAPI, usually low-income pensioners that travel around Greece by road. The second group are pensioners’ societies, normally high-income pensioners from the state services or banks, who travel by plane abroad. Both groups travel off season because they do not have professional obligations and at the same time they get lower prices.» But the situation seems likely to change with the pensioning-off of the generations born in the 1940s and ’50s. «These are people who will travel with more awareness, as they have known tourism as a means of recreation earlier. Also, they speak a foreign language, which helps them feel safer,» Bivolaris explained. «In the next decade, they will bring a new dynamics to tourism, and in the normal course of events, they will become the chief clients. We have already started to create programs specially for pensioners in the months of March-May and September-October. The more elderly people travel, the more they will extend the tourist season. Travel agents that adapt quickly to these new facts on the ground will conquer the market.» Specialized products Sensing the change sweeping the entire western world, multinational companies have already begun to develop special products and services targeted exclusively at people over 60. «In America and the rest of Europe, elderly people are already regarded as a separate market. «One of the first sectors to turn toward the elderly was the food sector. They created new products with a high nutritional value, such as milk with a high calcium content, margarines that lower cholesterol levels,» Spyros Gounaris, assistant marketing professor at the Athens University of Economics and Business, told Kathimerini. «In the last few years, such products have appeared in Greek stores as well.» Academics, however, feel that Greek firms have not yet responded to the new situation. «In this country, the problem is the large number of low-income pensioners, without that meaning that this group is out of the running. There should simply be long-term planning and an integrated marketing strategy that will create low-cost products and services.»