Toy Companies Broaden Focus to Engage Elderly Consumers

by Michael Nguyen
Elderly-targeted toys

Toy manufacturers are modifying classic games and introducing new ones specifically for a more mature audience: individuals over the age of 65. These products are promoted as tools for enhancing cognitive abilities and mitigating loneliness by fostering connections with family and friends. However, there is skepticism among experts regarding the efficacy of these claims by toymakers.

Hasbro, in collaboration with Ageless Innovation, a company specializing in toys for the elderly, has released updated versions of Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Life under the “Generations” brand. These versions feature larger fonts and game pieces for ease of use. The revamped Life and Trivial Pursuit games also boast content appealing to both young and old players. The updated games were launched in stores in August, in anticipation of the holiday season.

Educational Insights, known for their educational toys for young children, is now incorporating imagery of older adults in their marketing. This change comes after noticing that their brain games like Kanoodle and BrainBolt were popular among older customers in online reviews. Next year, they plan to release BrainBolt Boost, a variant with larger buttons and simplified gameplay.

Additionally, WowWee’s app-connected robotic dog Dog-E, initially targeted at children and families, has gained popularity among those over 65. In response, WowWee plans to introduce new features to Dog-E next year, including voice commands and memory games, as per Andrew Yanofsky, the company’s marketing head.

Ted Fischer, co-founder and CEO of Ageless Innovation, emphasizes the importance of play in positively impacting the lives of older adults.

The toy industry’s shift towards older adults has been partly influenced by the pandemic, which altered toy purchasing habits. Many adults, seeking comfort, turned to toys ranging from Legos to collectibles. The isolation experienced during lockdowns led older adults to seek companionship in toys like plush animals and robotic pets.

Circana, a market research firm, reports a rise in toy sales to adult buyers. Approximately 5% of total U.S. toy sales cater to males aged 35 and above, a 13% increase from the previous year. Sales to females in the same age range constitute about 4%, up 9% since last year. While specific data for those over 65 is not separately reported, grandparents, a significant segment of the toy market, have shown considerable spending power.

The U.S. toy industry, seeking revitalization after a sluggish year, especially during the 2022 holiday season, finds potential in targeting older adults.

Ben Swartz, 92, a resident of a retirement community in Des Moines, Iowa, and former owner of a chain of toy stores, appreciates the industry’s new direction. He emphasizes the importance of mental engagement, playing games like bridge and poker regularly.

Conversely, some scientists caution about overestimating the benefits of these toys for the elderly. Neil Charness and Walter Boot, psychology professors at Florida State University, have researched the impact of brain games on cognitive skills. Their findings suggest that while these games improve specific abilities, they do not significantly enhance cognitive functions necessary for daily activities or significantly reduce loneliness.

Boot advocates for designing games for the elderly that focus on leisure and enjoyment, rather than solely on cognitive benefits.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Elderly-targeted toys

Are toy companies now targeting older adults?

Yes, toy companies are increasingly targeting older adults by tweaking classic games and creating new ones to cater to those over 65 years old. These products are marketed as tools for enhancing cognitive abilities and fostering social connections.

What are some examples of toys designed for older adults?

Examples include updated versions of Scrabble, Trivial Pursuit, and Life with larger fonts and pieces from Hasbro, brain games like Kanoodle and BrainBolt from Educational Insights, and the app-connected robotic dog Dog-E from WowWee, which will soon include voice commands and memory games.

What is the rationale behind toy companies targeting the elderly market?

Toy companies are targeting the elderly market to help improve their cognitive skills and reduce loneliness. The trend has been accelerated by the pandemic, which led to increased isolation among older adults.

How has the pandemic influenced the toy industry’s focus on older adults?

The pandemic changed toy purchasing habits, with many older adults feeling isolated during lockdowns. This led to an increased interest in toys like plush animals and robotic pets as companions, prompting toy companies to focus more on this demographic.

What do experts say about the effectiveness of these toys for older adults?

While some experts welcome the attention to older consumers, there is skepticism about the claims of cognitive benefits. Studies suggest that while specific skills may improve, these do not necessarily translate to broader cognitive improvements or significant reductions in loneliness.

More about Elderly-targeted toys

  • Cognitive Benefits of Gaming for Seniors
  • Trends in the Toy Industry
  • Pandemic and Its Impact on Elderly Loneliness
  • Ageless Innovation and Elderly-Focused Toys
  • Hasbro’s New Gaming Products for Older Adults
  • Educational Insights’ Brain Games for Seniors
  • WowWee’s Dog-E for Older Consumers
  • Expert Opinions on Elderly Gaming Benefits

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Tom H November 20, 2023 - 10:32 pm

Loved the article! My grandma could use some of these games, she’s always complaining about being bored. Gonna check out that Dog-E thing.

Mark Johnson November 21, 2023 - 2:36 am

interesting read but can playing with toys really reduce loneliness for older people? I mean, it’s not the same as real human interaction, right?

Kevin B November 21, 2023 - 4:15 am

not sure about all this, seems like a marketing gimmick to me. Do elderly really need special toys or just more time with family?

Jenny Mills November 21, 2023 - 5:48 am

Wow, didn’t know that toy companies are now focusing on the elderly, pretty cool i guess. But are these toys really helpful for cognitive skills? seems a bit far-fetched…

Lisa T November 21, 2023 - 10:50 am

It’s great that companies are thinking about older adults, but I agree with the experts. Let’s not forget to design these games for fun, not just as some sort of brain exercise.

Sarah K November 21, 2023 - 4:17 pm

Hasbro and Ageless Innovation teaming up, huh? Sounds like a smart move, but bigger fonts and buttons don’t sound very innovative to me.


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