For the more than 1 in 3 people who are now aged over 50, we have found a multitude of different dimensions to the largest and now wealthiest demographic we have ever seen. In the same way as teenagers to twenty-somethings struggle to find themselves as people and personalities, a period for many filled with angst and acne in equal measure, our insight work with older people shows a very similar process occurs once those conforming years come to an end – it can be as angst-ridden as 30-40 years previously but it is broadly the same process. The big difference for our Baby Boomers is that they have a lifetime of experience behind them and newfound confidence about what they want to do.

One of the questions we ask frequently in our workshops with consumers is how old they feel. Those who had a relatively peaceful adolescent passage are commonly those who will boldly state a mid to late twenties reference. Older people and those who felt with hindsight the pain of passing into adulthood will typically give a reference a little under half their current age. Thus we find consumers in their mid 80’s who feel like they have just turned 40.

Increasingly our middle-aged consumers, often still working hard and burning with an ambition to keep ahead of the younger talent snapping at their heels, have options to re-invent, take on new values and interests, experience more, learn more and do more. It is like a new start, a re-discovery and a chance to re-visit their younger selves and strip back the bits they didn’t like and indulge more in the things they did and have learnt to love during the intervening years.

The enduring popularity of Northern Soul is one example of this phenomenon and people who grew up and embraced the culture of dance and Motown still frequent the ballrooms and sprung floors for major festivals. They may look slightly different in their baggies and Perry t-shirts but the culture of ‘looking sharp and dancing better’ remains well into the ’50s and ’60s. You may not be able to dance all night but you still need to stay fit to even carry it off at all in a way that earns respect. There has been a flurry of activity over the last 5-7 years in the ink and tattoo parlours as newly toned, middle-aged biceps or thighs receive some design work.

OK, mature Northern Soul fans remain a small tribe. if you want to look at other second adolescent choices look at cycling, body image, body art, fashionistas, foodies, hobbyists, restorers, up-cyclers, explorers, writers and students at the University of Third Age. All of these highlight the myriad complexity of a group which so many marketers lump together as ’55 and overs’. Wrong – even 55’s feel they are in their mid 20’s and are probably looking to define their second adolescent direction.