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There’s Gold in that Silver Cloud

Savvy marketers are targeting America's growing grandparent population, new research suggests. They are a large and influential consumer segment, and are becoming an increasingly powerful force in the U.S. economy.

Grandparent households spend 4.4 percent more each year than all other households, according to Nielsen. And they love to lavish their discretionary dollars on their grandkids. Almost 40 percent of grandparents told Nielsen they provided support such as clothing and food to their grandchildren.

Their numbers are growing as well. The current population of 69.9 million grandparents is expected to rise 11 percent this year, Nielsen said.

They’re also not living in isolation. There has been a rise in the number of grandparents living with younger family members. Multigenerational households rose to 49 million – or 16.1 percent of the population — in 2008, according to a Pew Research Center study. These are households with at least two adult generations or grandparents and another generation.

It’s not a case of just sharing the residence. There’s been a sharp rise in the number of children being raised by grandparents to 2.9 million in 2008, a trend that was exacerbated by the "great recession." Overall, one in 10 children lives with a grandparent, Pew reported.

One unintended byproduct of this growth of multigenerational household is increased exposure of grandparents to digital media . In the past, older adults and seniors lagged behind in Internet use. In households now saturated with computers — including children and teens highly immersed in the online realm — grandparents  become digitally active practically by osmosis.

Boomers, the next wave of grandparents, also show a more general proclivity for computers and engaging online than their predecessors. Boomers and seniors, according to Nielsen, will continue to be among the fastest-growing segments in terms of social network usage.

The takeaway of these colliding trends, suggests eMarketer, a business intelligence service, is that youth marketers should be aware of the growing grandparent population and their willingness to make purchases on behalf of their grandkids, while marketers targeting older adults should note the growing role the digital world plays in their lives.

Reach BusinessNewsDaily senior writer Ned Smith at nsmith@techmedianetwork.com. Follow him on Twitter @nedbsmith.

Ned Smith
Ned Smith

Ned was senior writer at Sweeney Vesty, an international consulting firm, and was Vice President of communications for iQuest Analytics. Before that, he has been a web editor and managed the Internet and intranet sites for Citizens Communications. He began his journalism career as a police reporter with the Roanoke (Va.) Times, and was managing editor of American Way magazine and senior editor of Us. He was a Captain in the U.S. Air Force and has a masters in journalism from the University of Arizona.