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    Managing healthy aging and vision

    The baby boomer generation can help grow your practice—or overwhelm it

    Seems like everyone is focusing on baby boomers as they enter a new phase of their lives, but vision in particular is a big topic. And why wouldn’t it be? What is more critical to healthy aging than maintaining healthy vision?

    Preparing for this age wave is not only one of the greatest opportunities for the independent eyecare professional (ECP), it will also become one of our greatest responsibilities.

    Why focus on baby boomer patients

    Dealing with healthy aging among baby boomers requires an understanding of how this generation is changing the whole notion of growing old. People are working longer—more than a third of working Americans say they don’t plan to stop working.1 As life expectancy grows, baby boomers are looking at the financial strain of 20 or 30 or more years with no income. And many simply enjoy their work. In a 2012 survey conducted by The Vision Council, more than a third of U.S. adults reported spending four to six hours a day with digital media or related electronic devices.2 That kind of focus on digital content tires eye muscles, leading to eye strain and fatigue. Baby boomers pretty much invented the idea of personal fulfillment. Both relationships and fulfilling experiences are important to them; they are determined to lead healthy, active lives.

    How digital devices are affecting vision

    These patients are not interested in slowing down and demand products and services that allow them to continue to live their lives as they did in their 30s and 40s. One of the interesting effects of the Internet is that consumers seek out information on all manner of health topics. Seventy-two percent of Internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year.3 And older patients are no exception—over half of adults over 65 are Internet users.4 Even more interesting, 96 percent of baby boomers participate in word-of mouth or viral marketing by passing product or service information on to friends.5 Need more convincing that baby boomers are Internet savvy? According to Forrester Research, boomers outspend younger adults online 2:1 on a per capita basis.5

    The implications are clear for ECPs: assume that your older patients are well versed on new products and new technology. You don’t want to be in the position of your patient feeling she knows more than you do. This information parity driven by the Internet and social media produces better buyers than sellers all too often.

    The takeaway is to assume baby boomers, like all your patients, are interested in hearing about product options. In fact, recent research shows that 89 percent of patients say the lens options offered to them by their ECPs is important,6 and many patients expect their ECPs to make a product recommendation based on their needs.

    It’s almost impossible to overstate how big of an impact what marketers are calling the “silver tsunami” can have on your practice. Think about that patient who is age 55. On average, this patient will live to be age 86. What is the lifetime value of this patient to your practice?

    How to handle a bad online review

    In 2000, there were 60 million Americans over 55. By 2030, there will be 112 million Americans over 55, 30 percent of the population.7 And not only are there a lot of baby boomers, their economic impact is greater than their numbers. Baby boomers outspend other generations by an estimated $400 billion each year on consumer goods and services.5 And boomers account for 55 percent of consumer packaged goods sales.5

    Christopher W. Lievens, OD, MS, FAAO
    Dr. Lievens is a professor and chief of staff for The Eye Center at Southern College of Optometry. He has published scientific research ...
    Tim Fortner
    Tim Fortner is CEO of Fornter Consulting Group with over 45 years of industry experience. He previously was manager of trade development ...

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