Forever young: Enter the perennials – for whom age is a number, not a definition

Forever young: Enter the perennials – for whom age is a number, not a definition

No, we haven’t transformed into a gardening column overnight – ‘perennial’ is the latest buzzword to describe a tranche of the population who refuse to be defined by their birth date. Coined by Gina Pell, Content Chief at The What, in October, the term describes ‘ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages.’

And although Pell is clear that this group – also described as amortals or relevants – crosses generations and is more categorized by attitude than age, the media has adopted the term to describe 40- to 50-year-old women who are defying middle-age conventions and have more in common with their 20-year-old daughters than their mothers at an equivalent age. In other words, these women ain’t watching Gardeners’ World any time soon – instead, they’re scouring Instagram for the latest lipstick trends.

“The defining characteristic of amortality is to live in the same way, at the same pitch, doing and consuming much the same things, from late teens right up until death,” wrote Catherine Mayer in a piece on Amortality for Time magazine.

Indeed, a study of more than 500 women conducted by SuperHuman for The Telegraph revealed that 96 percent of 40-plus women don’t feel middle aged, and 80 percent feel that society’s assumptions about middle-aged women are not representative of how they live their lives.

That’s perhaps good news for the beauty industry, which has been called out for its near-obsessive targeting of millennials, as these marketing efforts will have a further reach than perhaps intended. “Eighty-four percent of the women we surveyed used products and services they felt were aimed at younger women,” Rebecca Rhodes, Co-Founder of SuperHuman told The Telegraph.

But on the flip side is that 91 percent of women don’t believe that advertisers understand them, according to Rhodes. And that’s a problem, especially given that women aged over 45 account for 58 percent of the cosmetics market (, and by 2020, it’s estimated that a third of the UK workforce will be over 50, controlling 80 percent of the wealth (SuperHuman).

“The idea of retiring at 50 and having an empty nest is totally out of date for most people,” Richard Cope, Consumer Trends Analyst at Mintel told The Telegraph. “Economic pressures and increasing pension ages mean women are working longer and thus spending time with younger colleagues. At the same time, due to property and rental costs, more adult children are living at home, and their attitudes are influencing their parents, causing what’s known as generational blurring.”

In other words, it looks like products aimed at on-trend consumers of all ages are the future – Pell points to Netflix and Amazon as companies that use data to profile clients based on their historical purchases / viewing habits, rather than their demographic. Is this the way forward for beauty too?