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Is Fashion Missing the Aging Consumer Opportunity?

Fashion should design with, not just for, older consumers, argued Sarah Thomas onstage at #BoFVOICES. Watch now.

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By
  • Lauren Sherman
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OXFORDSHIRE, United Kingdom — The fashion industry often seems obsessed with youth. But what about those who are young at heart?

For the first time ever, the world’s population is entering a period when there will be more adults over the age of 65 than children under the age of five. Rideshare services like Lyft — which offers an affordable way to commute for those who can no longer drive — and consumer goods companies like P&G — which has developed razors specially designed for caregivers through its brand Gillette — are creating products for this increasingly significant demographic. But what about fashion?

"I would like to provide the older adult perspective that you're missing," Sarah Thomas, executive-in-residence at community network Aging 2.0 and head of global innovations for Genesis Rehabilitation Services and Genesis Healthcare, told the audience at VOICES, BoF's gathering for big thinkers in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate. "To help to design with — and not just for — the older adult consumer."

According to Thomas, who also leads market entry and strategic partnerships for wearable robotics startup Seismic, companies can only capitalise on the opportunity at hand with greater insight into what really matter for older consumers.

“We must keep the voice of the older adult at the centre of the conversation,” she said, introducing the audience to June Fisher, Aging 2.0’s chief elder officer and a physician who lectures design students at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. “When we’re designing for the older adult and the aging experience, there are many brands that only think of function. Technology is allowing us to design in ways we’ve never thought about before.” (Including 3D printing and personalised and custom design.)

Thomas showcased Seismic’s “powered” clothing, which features discreet mobility-tracking sensors that provide support to the body’s core, allowing the wearer to move around more freely. She also emphasised the importance of aesthetic. For instance, Auriens, a luxury retirement community in London’s Chelsea neighborhood, challenges the concept of the home-care model by offering smart, functional technologies — like touchpads in the showers — that are framed by high-design elements. “The experience is heightened through fashion and design,” Thomas said. “They are taking style and form and putting together with function.”

To learn more about VOICES, BoF's annual gathering for big thinkers, in partnership with QIC Global Real Estate, visit our VOICES website and click here to request an invitation to attend.

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