Life used to be shorter and simpler.
Traditional social norms and lower longevity meant clearly defined pathways through the life course and recognised markers at different ages. In generations gone by, you’d likely have left the family home, started your career, married and had children well before 30. You’d spend much of the next few decades parenting and caring – and then retirement would be both abrupt and brief. Life was also far less fair – the burden of care fell almost exclusively on women and society’s deference to hetero-normative ideals of family life left little room for others.
Life is less simple and more complicated today. Those with children in their 20s will know that leaving the family home is a now a gradual, reversable and multi-year process while the average age of both marriage and having children is getting later and later. Families are smaller, less horizontal and more vertical as people have fewer children but live longer. Work and retirement are more fluid with more career changes and career breaks. Many people never fully retire at all.
These changes to the life course – driven by a mixture of demographic, social and economic trends – are one of the most consistently underrated factors shaping our society today. The changing shape of families and meaning of age has a role to play in access to housing, political decisions on tax and spend and intergenerational transfers of wealth. As the meaning of age changes, the demographic centre of gravity in the UK is drifting up the generational ladder – grandparents just might be the most important demographic to most brands today.
Join us for our next Trends Briefing where we explore the meaning of age, plot the changing life course and identify the key implications for organisations and brands.