Discussion Papers

Franz Büllingen unter Mitarbeit von Frank Stöckler

Die Entwicklung des Seniorenmarktes und seine Bedeutung für den Telekommunikationssektor
Nr. 167 / November 1996

Summary

The relevance of ageing and elderly people is increasing in every respect. Low birth rates and growing life expectancy in industrialised countries lead to an increasing proportion of elderly people in the population. Their relevance for the market and the need for specifically targeted market communication, products and services have been underestimated until now. Particularly the elderly's relevance for the telecommunications market has barely been analysed.

The demographic development is accompanied by far-reaching socio-structural changes. Due to the pluralisation of life-styles, singularisation and desolidarisation processes, an increasing number of people live on their own and lead an autonomous life also in their old age. The maintenance of social networks and social integration are of increasing importance for the elderly's autonomy. Telecommunications technology plays a decisive role for providing psychological nearness, virtual neighbourhood and social security. Therefore, the high level of diffusion of telephones in elderly people's households is not surprising. However, the diffusion and adoption of specific telecommunications services and equipment for the elderly, like alarm systems, information services or text-telephones is rather limited in Germany - compared to other European countries - despite a high potential demand.

According to our studies, the low market penetration of telecommunications services for the elderly cannot be attributed to their low income or poor acceptance of new technologies. It is rather an effect of the market structure with its traditional dominance of non-profit organisations providing services for the elderly. However, a change towards a stronger involvement of commercial service providers in the future can be observed at the moment.

Regarding the future development of the demand for new services, the financial situation of the majority of the elderly can be regarded as very promising. With adequate learning support they will also be able to become confident even with the use of complex technologies as, for example, personal computers to access new services.

Our study also shows that the elderly are very interested to integrate sophisticated technologies and attractive services into their every-day life. In the future, socio-demographic variables seem to be less adequate to develop the market of elderly people, which is very inhomogeneous. Life-style analysis seem to be a more suitable alternative to identify and differentiate market segments.

In particular, the group of the "new elderly" with their specific consumption patterns will play an important role for the future development of new telecommunications services, since they seem to be the early adoptors of complex and demanding new services.

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