South Africans over 55 are the fastest growing demographic

The number of South Africans over the age of 55 continues to grow. File photo.

The number of South Africans over the age of 55 continues to grow. File photo.

Published Oct 24, 2023


As the life expectancy of South Africans continues to increase, the number of South Africans over the age of 55 continues to grow, according to the UCT Liberty Institute Forerunners Report.

The report found that older South Africans are among the fastest-growing demographics.

According to the report, the number of adults over the age of 55 has grown to over 8 million, making it one of the country's fastest-growing demographic segments, with an aggregate taxable income of over R600 billion annually.

“This segment will continue to grow, and this trajectory is set to continue well into the future,” it said.

The 18-month study was conducted through a survey of 1,900 people, with over 300 interviews conducted by the UCT Liberty Institute using quantitative and qualitative methodologies.

UCT managing consultant and co-author Paul Egan said: “Through our research, we found that middle-class South Africans want to remain active, with many continuing to work both out of choice and necessity. Interestingly, we also found that 64% of middle-class individuals aged 55-60 have children living at home.

“This means that the empty-nester stage, when adult children become independent, appears to be happening later in many cases, leading to parents bearing financial responsibility for a longer period. At the same time, the study found that nearly two-thirds of middle-class individuals aged 55 to 60 expected their financial position to improve over the next five years. This is likely connected to an anticipated 'windfall' when financial responsibility for children ceases.”

The report found that South Africans were living longer. Longevity is one of the “horizons that have shifted” for those over 55. The study found that 52% of middle-class individuals under 55 expressed a desire to live beyond 90.

Another shift noted in the report is the growth of the black middle class as SA prepares to usher in its first major wave of retirees in this segment over the next 20 years.

“This segment will set the precedent for what ‘black retirement’ looks like, as they become the first generation to do so with resources, which historically has not been the case,” the report found.

Head of Projects at the Institute and report co-author James Lappeman said that the stereotype that this segment has already made their brand choices, is far from the truth.

“Most are ready to switch brands, and older consumers are also highly influenced as they shop for value, convenience, perception, and trust. However, 55% say that brands are no longer interested in marketing effectively to them,” he said.

“Our research is showing that there is this ‘bridge phase’ before retirement, characterised by resetting priorities and an increased identification of one’s own future,” Lappeman said.