Women over 40 aren’t who you think they are.

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Turns out, they’re not even who they thought they’d be. 

When Fancy surveyed nearly 500 women over 40, we asked them to think back to the perception they had of women 40+ when they were in their teens and twenties. Then we asked them to compare where they are now to what they perceived back then. 

80% of women over 40 feel younger, cooler, or sexier than they expected they’d feel at this age.

Eighty percent. That’s a lot of women who aren’t interested in reliving their youth (misspent or not!). That’s a lot of women who are looking forward to life, not back at it. And, that’s a lot of women who aren’t going to be influenced by advertising playing (and preying) on their insecurities, fears, and anxieties. 

“Back then I saw women older than 40 as mothers and wives. Today I see women in their 40s as just beginning to reach their prime.” - Fancy Survey Respondent

Used to be that the aspirational age for marketing was around 25. Younger women wanted to grow up and have all the freedom and experience their twenties would bring and older women wanted to turn back the clock, re-experience the freedom, fun, and carefree lifestyle they enjoyed before the pressures of home, family, and increasingly, careers placed on them. Not anymore. Today not only are women over 40 feeling like they are entering the best years of their lives, but younger women are looking forward to the confidence and self-awareness that can only come with having lived a little longer.

Today’s women over 40 are providing an excellent collection of role models for the next generations. 

Actors, academics, C-suiters, scientists, and hello...Madam Vice President…. Young women and girls today are able to see a path towards achievement, choice, independence, and possibility that doesn’t dead-end at 40 or at any age. 

This encourages them to view aging not as something to fear, avoid, and deny, but as something to welcome and look forward to. 

“I thought 40-year-old women were old. Now in my 40s, I don't even think my 68-year-old mother is old” - Fancy Survey Respondent

And chances are, that 68-year-old mother doesn’t feel old either. When women of all age groups are given opportunities to mix and meet each other, professionally and socially, they’re able to connect with each other based on shared interests and experiences, not just chronology. 

“My mother’s mother had her first grandchild at 40. I had my first baby at 40.”

Many of the women we surveyed said that in their twenties they thought women over 40 were “ancient,” “fuddy-duddy” or “over the hill.” They seemed almost surprised at how vital, strong, and sexy they feel now. That said, the confidence and power and belief in themselves and where they’re going in their lives is palpable.

Hardly spending their days playing bingo and birdwatching, today’s women over 40 are just getting started. 

So marketers, ask yourselves: when your brief is targeting women 18-34 or even allllll the way up to 45, why are you stopping there? What does a woman who is 40+, 50+, 60+ look like, act like, shop like? Are you sure?


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