The Wall Street Journal recently confirmed that aging Baby Boomers are still using drugs. I don’t mean the doctor-prescribed kind, I mean the “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” kind, that they first encountered in the 1960s and ‘70s at places like Woodstock.
The article pointed out that accidental drug overdoses are as common among the 50+ crowd, these days, as they are among Millennials. (It also mentioned that the over-50 age group is the only cohort in which the rate of sexually-transmitted disease is increasing.)
Of course these days there are quite a few states where doctors can—and increasingly do—prescribe marijuana for ailments that until recently were just accepted as a natural part of aging.
A few months ago, Florida voters narrowly defeated Amendment 2, an initiative that would have put Florida on a path towards legalizing medical pot. A Quinnipiac poll just before the vote showed that 84% of voters over 65 supported the measure. And, 62% of voters 50-64 admitted to smoking pot—more than any other demographic.
So while Boomers’ and Seniors’ musical tastes may have moved on (and I’m not saying they have) there’s at least circumstantial evidence that the “sex & drugs” part of that cliché are still going strong.
While the tone of the Wall Street Journal article was finger-wagging, marketers and advertisers need to learn a different lesson from this Daily Factoid.
Here it is: us old people grew up in an era of experimentation with drugs and sexual freedom. As we aged, we became parents but we didn’t become our parents. While we were raising kids and in the workforce, many of us toned it down. But now we’re at an age when we know what we like and some of us could care less whether ‘the man’ approves. That statistic I cited a few paragraphs above, about pot use in the 50-64 cohort is instructive. I'm not saying that those trailing-edge Boomers necessarily smoke more pot than anyone else, but they're more open about it. Sex, drugs? Yes please.
That holds true for older—often much older—Seniors. My mom is 89. When her neighbors in the seniors’ condo put out a plate of brownies, there’s a good chance they’re laced with pot. And I have another acquaintance who’s pushing 70—a grandmother with an artificial hip—who finds that the young members of the Kansas City ‘polyamory’ Meetup group she attends are easily shocked by her sexual exploits.
If you’re a young ad creative and you want your messages to resonate with Boomers and Seniors, stop talking to us—and especially portraying us—as a bunch of old fuddy-duddies. We’re probably having more fun than you are.