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July 2, 2015 · Share via Email LinkedIn

It's easy to group all adults over 50 together and poke fun at how they use Facebook or text with two hands, but it's time to break this habit. While Boomers turning 50 this year are drastically different from their 70-plus parents, both groups (and those in between) have characteristics that define their habits and ways of life. When you consider the experiences, challenges, and successes that come with each new stage in life, it becomes clear that not every 50+ adult is alike. The one thing each group has in common? They are living life to the fullest in their own unique ways.

Boomers in their 50s (Born: 1956-1964)

These Boomers were becoming parents as computers were becoming parts of everyday life in America. As such, they are much more engaged in the digital revolution than their fellow Boomers in other age groups. In fact, 65 percent of internet users in their 50s are on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center.

Additionally, many in this group are undergoing changes in their lives professionally and at home. A little over half of those aged 50-66 are divorced or separated, 58 percent are becoming grandparents, and about one-fifth of them are changing jobs. But make no mistake, these changes aren't slowing them down—quite the contrary. 

A quarter of these Boomers are starting new businesses and reinventing their lives. They also continue to be active consumers amidst all of these changes; one-third have purchased a second home and, according to AARP Travel Research, 99 percent of respondents had plans to travel for leisure in 2015.

Boomers in their 60s (Born: 1946-1955) 

Born the decade following the conclusion of World War II, these Boomers comprise the heart of the Greatest Generation. They may not be as active online as their 50-to 59-year-old counterparts, but 74 percent of them own cell phones!

The majority of these Boomers are now seeing their last kids graduate from college, becoming grandparents, planning for retirement, or have already completed their professional careers. This group aims to live off the fruits of its labor. The median household net worth for those aged 65-74 was $232,000 in 2013, and they are spending that income traveling the world, spending more time with their grandkids, and even taking them along on trips!

Adults in their 70s

Technically, they're not Boomers, but they are still connected to that demographic. Perhaps they are older siblings, cousins, and friends of those born after 1945. And, with the growing adoption of technology among seniors, 70 may as well be the new 60.

These folks are now officially retired, but many of them still work part time for the fun of remaining active. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that 24 percent of seniors aged 65 and above are volunteering in their communities. 

Most in this group are engaging in their second life. By this time, many have sold their primary residences and downsized, having closed the door on parenting and transitioned into being full-time grandparents. 

These adults have accumulated a wealth of knowledge throughout their lives, and want to pass it on. Two in five share or communicate information about causes they care about to others online.

Adults 80 and Above

Yes, this group generally comprises parents of Boomers. But this group, having come of age during World War II, has experienced the shift to modernity from the industrial revolution all the way to the global interconnected economy of today. 

These experiences have served them well. According to Nielsen, those aged 82-85 scored the highest on the happiness scale. 

As you guessed, more years of living and work experience equals more accumulated wealth. The Golden Generation's median net worth is $155,714, higher than that of their 55- to 64-year-old counterparts, and they're spending that cash. On average, they spend about $1,200 per person annually shopping online. That number is only $30 lower than the Millennial average! Yeah, your grandparents are pretty cool.

50+ adults come from all different walks of life that have shaped each of their sub-generations differently. How can we expect them to be the same? Some own smartphones and some still have land-lines. Some just got their last kid through college while others are veteran grandparents. One thing is for sure, each group is unique, diverse, and multifaceted, and offers myriad marketing opportunities.

Sources: MRI Fall 2014; Pew Research Center Social Networking Fact Sheet, Mobile Technology Fact Sheet; Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances 2013; Reaching Today's Boomers & Seniors Online, Google + Ipsos 2013; Nielsen Reports; Distribution of Household Wealth in the U.S.: 2000 to 2011, US Census; Business Insider 2015