Personality Changes with Age: A Sales Perspective

The personalities of males and females often change with age. At a later point in life, many older men and women begin exhibiting characteristics that used to be exclusive to the other. She becomes more like how he was and he becomes more like how she was.

These changes are borne out in research by Dr. David Gutmann, Northwestern University professor, who conducted this study in 1980 with a number of cultures worldwide. The results were published in his book, Reclaimed Powers: Men and Women in Later Life. The results were the same in every culture as older people reach late 60s and 70s.

The research showed that men acquire softer qualities in later life that are different than their previously hard-edged “masculine” personalities. They seem to gain sensitivity and tenderness that was lacking. They become more emotionally responsive and more interested in closer human relationships. Touching, feelings and expressing love become more important.

At the same time, women appear to move in the opposite direction, as they embrace the aggressive masculinity that older men are relinquishing. They become more independent, strong-minded, political and especially more action-oriented.

Looking at my relationship with my wife, my partner for nearly 50 years, I see it first-hand. I hug my adult children more now. I express my emotions more, including an occasional cry. When I drive into a parking lot, my wife tells me which parking space to take, even though it may not have been my first choice. She originates the majority of our family purchase decisions.

When my firm conducts sales training sessions with marketing and sales associates and make them aware of this hallmark study, many realize they may well have to take a closer look at their sales and marketing approaches with older couples. Frequently, the conclusions are more impactful with younger sales personnel who may be less attuned to generational differences.

What does this mean in the marketing and selling of your retirement community when older couples are involved? A number of sale contact persons say they have learned that older women drive the decision-making process.

Here are tips for dealing with couples where women have taken on the leading role:

  1. Review your sales approach. Are you ignoring one or other of the spouses in the course of your discussions?
  2. Help them gather and understand information, which is especially important to her. Spend time helping both understand the benefits of your proposal.
  3. Focusing on “family,” another important criteria for her. Retirement communities that have conveniences for visiting family members need to be stressed.
  4. Help her evaluate options. Provide openness to either spouse’s ideas or comments.
  5. Focus on the person who is doing the least amount of talking. Make an effort to speak to both people. The quieter person is likely listening to everything but taking it all in.

For information about myretirement community training programs, contact me at [email protected], by phone at (704) 554-7863.