The Power to Expand the Market

Jim Pirkl has “retired” from his job as a professor at Syracuse University, although retirement is really a synonym for a new career. Jim was an early proponent of universal design and coined the use of the word transgenerational, a term for products that span the gener­ations of needs. The theory is simple: As you live through the decades in your life, your needs and abilities change. The world already focus­es on the development of products and services for youth markets and for people of average or greater physical and mental capabilities. The average person peaks in physical ability in his mid-20s, plateaus in his 30s, and starts to lose ability after that. The rate at which one loses ability is a factor of genetics, environment, personal habits, and

accidents and illness. At some point, usually in his 50s and 60s, each individual becomes less physically and cognitively able and starts to need support systems and devices. Pirkl’s goal is to slow down the impact of the process by helping develop solutions to living that allow a person to age gracefully in his or her own home.

Jim now lives in New Mexico and has made retirement his new business. His house is featured by AARP (the American Association of Retired Persons) as a model home for people to age into. After half a century of product and service development being focused on the youth markets of 10-to-30-something, the post-65 retirees have become the new market of economic power and consumer expecta­tion. The youth market is still valuable to capture, both for its spend­ing power and for developing long-term loyalty. Buy a Chevy and move up to Cadillac and stay in the GM family. However, with cur­rent life expectancies, with the size of the aging baby boomer seg­ment, and with its volume of disposable income, the post-65 market has become an age range worth marketing to.