Falling Down The Stairs; Understanding the needs and motivations of Seniors

Understand the needs and motivations of Seniors 

In order for our community to move forward with the development of technologies that will enable baby boomers to age in place we will need to understand the needs and motivations of Seniors.  The psychology of aging is relevant  and necessary as we proceed.  I am going to present a model that should help us gain a general perspective on this very complex subject.

A motivation and needs model for “Aging In Place”

I will start my discussion with the title, “Falling Down The Stairs”.  The prospect of falling down the stairs is a frightening thought because the consequences can often be devastating.  I am using “falling down the stairs” metaphorically to allow us to visualize the motivation and needs model I am proposing for Aging In Place.  The concept for this model uses Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Visualize a staircase with five steps.  Each step represents a category of needs that must be secured before one can take the next step up the staircase.  Maslow suggests that all of us aspire to and proceed up the staircase throughout our lives. Some of us make it to the top but often we take an occasional step down as we proceed through life.  The needs on the first step are basic for such as food, water, sleep.  The next step represents the need for shelter, employment, health, the family,  The needs for step three are for friendship, family, and intimacy. The fourth step is for self-esteem, confidence, achievement, respect of others, respect by others.  The last step is for morality, creativity, problem solving and is referred to as self-actualization.

Using a needs model

So why do I use this 1943 model of human motivations?  Maslow’s theory is that we spend our lives satisfying the needs at each step and then moving on to the next.  We know they as we age our functionality declines.  When we encounter injury,  illness or the death of a loved one we metaphorically fall down the stairs. With the death of a loved one we might fall down to step 3 because of our need for friendship, family and intimacy is now unfulfilled. In the case of the of a devastating illness one may fall all the way down to the first step.  At that point the needs could be for breathing, food, water, sleep, and excretion.  Maslow call these needs physiological but we should think of them as Activities of Daily Living (ADLs).  In fact, the first two steps are highly correlated to ADLs.  As we move up we experience a sense of accomplishment with our ultimate goal being self-actualization.  However, when something happens and we fall down one or more of these steps we are frightened, and experience a sense of loss.  We all want to regain our functionality and climb back up as many steps as possible.  Failing that, we want to remain at the step we are at as long as possible.

We must know and understand the needs of our customers

In order to develop and market products and services that enable baby boomers to age in place it is essential that we understand the needs and motivations of our customers. This has not escaped the marketing community who has embraced Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from time to time.  I hope our community finds this model useful as well.       


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Key words: 
Aging in place, Psychology of Aging

Last Updated: July 06, 2019.

Written by: Earl Powell. Posted: November 06, 2013. 

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