1: Nostalgic for a carefree childhood, Baby Boomers and Millennials alike find comfort in familiar pursuits and products from decades past.
2: One of 17 known cultural and societal undercurrents, first identified by Faith Popcorn, whose shifting dimensions reflect the human experience as it evolves to define future consumer behavior.
Many people have fond memories of their childhood, but in the 1980s, Faith Popcorn and her team saw a movement emerging and dubbed it Down Aging. Rather than just reminiscing about the “good old days,” people were aiming to recreate the trappings of their youth or the youth they had heard about. Star Wars gave a generation an adventure saga to immerse themselves in. S’mores and PB&J treats turned up on restaurant menus, giving Baby Boomers the opportunity to regress and feel as if they weren’t getting old anymore. Upon reaching midlife and confronting its stresses – and their own aging, Boomers were determined to feel like kids again and take a break from the pressures of adulting. What’s more, those under the age of 30 – buckling under the stresses of their lives – dreamed of inhabiting a carefree world
Other signals of the Trend wove through the following decades. The relaunch of the VW Beetle in 1998 and the debut of the PT Cruiser in 1997 showed that the car-buying public was eager for the familiar automobiles of their youth. It also revealed that many younger consumers wanted to relive what they believed were the “good old days” that happened before they were born, and a nostalgic car transported them to that place. Restaurants serving nothing but comfort foods – mac ‘n cheese, oatmeal, and especially cereals—found a hungry public that wanted to savor this bygone fare.
The Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve team applied this Trend in its work for a major financial services company that wanted to reward younger consumers for their loyalty. After intensive consumer interviews and talks with the visionaries in our TalentBank, the futurists found that the greatest craving this target had was not just for enhanced tech for seamless transactions and wiser money management. They wanted to cash in points for curated experiences with their peers – camping for a weekend, or a road trip; something like their parents might have planned for them when they were a kid; something that the 25/8 pace of life today had taken away.
Down Aging is continuing to weave through the culture, ever more powerfully as the huge generation of Boomers age and are determined to stay as active and robust as possible. Robo-companions – charming and competent—are being developed; summer camps for seniors are becoming more common. There are also deep technological implications for Down Aging: VR and AR will soon have the ability to transport people into the past, so they can relax and relive their more carefree days. Businesses can activate with this, engaging the consumer and binding them to their brands.
What’s more, Millennials are Down Aging, too. They buy vinyl record albums and play them on “old-school” turntables. They watch episodes of the 90s sitcom “Friends” more fervently than their parents ever did and attend recreations of the Central Perk café featured in it. They buy tickets for remake after remake, whether it’s a new version of “A Star Is Born” with Lady Gaga or a revamped “Pet Cemetery.” TVs are in the same realm, with “Beverly Hills 90210” being remade and new Pokemon movies launching.
Technology will allow people to Down-Age seamlessly, whether that means playing a virtual game of Frisbee with a grandparent or having lunch in New York in the 1950s. All the artifacts of earlier eras can be recreated and engaged with via VR. Soon, we’ll be able to roll back our family history and recreate specific scenes from the past that make us feel safe, comforted and protected.
Down-Aging vacations will rule, as consumers can craft a virtual experience that has them walking back in time to a night at a 70s disco or a drag race circa 1950. Think it’s an episode of “Black Mirror”? No, it’s what lies ahead as we retreat from the complexities of future life.
Down Aging, with its emphasis on feeling carefree, frequently aligns with Small Indulgences, as consumers seek to reward themselves with a source of comfort from their past.
The Trend also works crosses with and works in concert with Anchoring, which serves to ground people with the traditions and beliefs from the past, especially spiritual ones. Together, these two forces can give people a deep feeling of belonging and meaning.
Tomorrow’s trends, Today