The Truth About Canadian Women McCann WorldGroup Canada
Truth about Canadian Women - Over 50

The Truth About Canadian WomenOver 50: The Untapped Opportunity

A Truth Central Study from McCann Worldgroup Canada conducted in partnership with Ipsos | 2018


The Truth About Canadian Women is an exploration of the changing conversation around women in Canada today. It’s a deep dive into how women are shaping change, and how this change is shaping everything around us.

Our purpose is to help brands and marketers define their role in this rapidly evolving landscape. We’re providing women and men the opportunity to share how gender affects their state of mind, their life experiences, and ultimately their choices as consumers. With this knowledge, The Truth About Canadian Women will guide businesses to new growth opportunities through a stronger connection with female consumers.

NOTE: While our exploration of gender equality and gender opportunities agrees with the principle that gender is a fluid concept, our data looks at women vs. men as our respondents have self-identified in our survey.

2700 Person Survey

with women and men across all of Canada

2 Consumer Workshops

with Canadian women who are leaders in their own communities, choosing or rejecting your brands every day

40+ Interviews

with leading Canadian marketers and women shaping change in Canada today

Game Changer Dinner Series

with women of influence across Canada’s key cities, tackling one topic at a time.

The story of how we age is being rewritten and women are rejecting the established belief that they simply fade away after 50, and for good reason. For the first time ever in Canadian history, there are more people over 65 than there are children under 15. The net worth of the 55 year old is more than double that of a 35 year old and remains that way well past the age of 65. Yet still today, women are visible in media until mid-life then they become invisible, only to make the occasional reappearance in their 80s presented in a state of decline and withdrawal.

70%of women over 50 feel that older women are not represented in the media

We are missing a lifetime, three decades of milestones, growth and opportunity.

59%of women feel they are living a fuller life after 50

Women know this, but marketers don’t seem to have caught on. The aging narrative of decline is deeply entrenched in our culture and is blocking us from seeing the many stages of life that play out over 50. Simply by recognizing that over 50 is no longer a single bucket of women, marketers can open themselves up to many new life stages that play out from 50 onwards.

We’ve identified three myths that are at the centre of how we view women over 50:

  1. They are checked out of the marketplace
  2. They are not aspirational for younger women
  3. They fade away while men over 50 continue to accomplish and thrive.

It is these myths that are getting in the way of both truth and opportunity.

The mainstream market in Canada is over 40 and getting older. They are half the population, their numbers are growing, and they have most of the money. As Canadians age, older women are going to decide more of everything. Figure them out.

Darrel Bricker

Chief Executive Officer

Ipsos Public Affairs

We asked women to describe themselves at three different ages and, if they weren’t there yet, to tell us what they aspire to be at those ages. What we discovered is that at 50 women are just hitting their stride.
Optimistic Entrepreneur
Supportive and giving back

What we have heard across Canada through our survey, interviews, consumer workshops and Game Changer dinners is that women over 50 feel accomplished, confident and engaged – and that is channeling itself into the energy with which they are approaching the next stages of their lives.

Source question: Please use three words to describe who you were at 30, who you are or will be at 50 and who you will be at 70

69%of Canadian women over 50 describe themselves as optimists

This is not the attitude of a checked-out cohort. It is the attitude of a fully engaged audience, one that has come into its own. Empowered with the wisdom of past experience, this audience wants to be an aspirational version of themselves into their 70s. With the economic power, experience, confidence and freedom to focus on themselves and their ambitions, how is it that most businesses are still advertising like life stops at 50?

Is it possible that women over 50 aren’t interested in chocolate, cars, fashion, travel, or even raising children? No way. In our consumer workshops when we asked what women over 50 buy the answer was always a quick and unanimous ‘everything’.

For women, being over 50 is not just about checking the boxes on a bucket list, it’s about creating a new and exciting to do list.


Women over 50 are checked out of life and the marketplace.


Women over 50 are more engaged than ever.

Midlife women are shaping change more than ever before because we are no longer tolerant of BS. It’s a confidence thing. Many of us spent years when all of our energy was sucked up by careers, caring for kids, everything… and when we hit 50, we discovered the newfound wisdom and confidence to say YES – and NO – to exactly what we want.

Shirley Weir

Women’s Health Advocate & Founder

40% of Canadian women, of all ages, feel closer to other women than any other group, including other Canadians, their communities or men.

What we’ve uncovered is a culture of sisterhood among Canadian women. Women inspire other women, no matter how old they are. We believe this connection stems from an understanding of shared experiences. Whether it’s new financial independence, new chapters of life, navigating relationships and sexuality, or finding refuge in female friendships, today women of 20 and 30 share similar life experiences with women who are 50, 60 and 70.


Women over 50 are not aspirational for younger women.


Women are inspired by women. Period.

We have long marketed against the assumption that young women don’t want to see themselves in older women.

While it’s true that young women (and older women) don’t aspire to look any older, looks aren’t the whole story, it’s just the story that takes over. Young women are inspired by the achievements of older women, by the barriers they’ve broken and the confidence with which they live their lives. When Netflix launched the series “Grace and Frankie” to the surprise of many, the show about two women in their 70s became a hit not just with the intended target of women over 50, but with millennial women who found a show to get excited about.

Twitter tweet about Grace and Frankie

I think 50 is an amazing point in your life. Wiser, smarter, and so many achievements… Women are also starting their own businesses now, being more entrepreneurial than they could before.

Nyla Ahmed

Senior Vice President, Enterprise Marketing

Rogers Communications

38%of Canadians think that aging is a bigger problem for women than it is for men

The perceptions people have about the way women and men age are both created and reinforced by brands and advertising. For women, aging is presented as a problem to fight (anti-aging, anti-wrinkle, anti-cellulite products), to hide (hair colour, spots, weight) or ignore altogether (menopause). For men, the signs of aging are presented very differently. Gray hair, for example, is considered a distinguishing feature in men, and physical issues are simply something to be solved so that men can keep on accomplishing and thriving.

*Source: The Truth About Age, McCann Worldgroup

85% of women and 76% of men over 50 believe that women have more pressures to look good than men do

The story of women is reduced to how they look – even as they age. Change, however, is underway, as demonstrated in 2017 when Allure magazine announced it would ban the term ‘anti-aging’ in its magazine and encouraged their advertisers of beauty and fashion brands to do the same.

For women and men both, aging is accompanied by new and pressing problems and needs. Being 50, 60 and 70 means real physical and societal pressures that didn’t exist in youth. What we see is the opportunity to address real problems and celebrate real achievements for both sexes.

In reality, women are far more likely than men to see new opportunities open up for them as they grow older. For so many men who have focused their energy, identity and social structure almost solely on work for decades, deeper psychological problems come with age. Women, who have lived lives of diversifying their identity beyond their profession, are able to see new opportunities presenting themselves through life.

Canadian women, more than men, are taking age out of the equation altogether when it comes to some of the most important milestones of life.

A person is never too old to…



Go back to school



Change career paths



Casually date romantic partners



Start a business



Source : The Truth About Age, McCann Worldgroup


Women over 50 fade away while men over 50 continue to accomplish and thrive.


Women over 50 thrive and face challenges. Men do too.

Women over 50 in Canada are almost invisible in the media, be it TV drama, advertising, articles or talkshows. In this case, myths are getting in the way of a good story and, most importantly, a real opportunity.

We need to retire the myths and start the new narrative.

Women over 50 are more engaged than ever.

At 50 we see women starting their third act that will play over decades. This act is both entirely new and very reminiscent of the three decades leading up to 50: new homes, new relationships, new jobs, new adventures.

Women are inspired by women. Period.

Today we see a culture of sisterhood among women - older women who look to younger women to learn new ideas and behaviours and younger women who look to older women as role models. To a large extent they’re in it together and want to mutually support and inspire one another along the way, not shun one another.

Women over 50 thrive and face challenges.

Men do too. Aging is a complicated truth. Some of it can be exhilarating and some of it can be terrifying. Men and women both experience it and, good or bad, could use guidance, support and encouragement getting through it.

I think there is a real opportunity with women over 50, because we are feeling younger and younger. 50 truly is the new 40. Life isn’t over at 50. You are probably at the top of your life, the summit of your career. You are earning more, the kids are older, you are starting to think about yourself. 50 isn’t old anymore. In fact, far from it.

Leslie Root

SVP Marketing



In June we had dinner in Calgary with a group of influential women who may not normally have ended up at the dinner table together. We gathered to talk about Women Over 50. To our surprise, this was not an easy conversation to have. Not because anyone at the table was uncomfortable discussing the realities of hitting 50, but because the potential of life after 50 is relatively new.

As a society as a whole, we talk a lot about work, kids, households and even advertising, but we don’t really know how to have the conversation about women over 50. 100 years ago it wasn’t even a thing. As we warmed to the topic we agreed on the fact that the middle really is missing and that women in the public space are shown going from 50 to old, with little or no acknowledgement for the time in between. And so we talked about that – the concerns, the wonder and the empowerment of life after 50.

I’ve been in the full-time workforce since I was 19, through marriage and children. I’m working two ‘shifts’ on most days – the first at the office and the second at home – just trying to keep everything and everyone on track for years. Somewhere in there I think I lost a piece of myself. How is it that I got to 50 and I don’t yet know what I want to be when I grow up?

Kim Lawrence,
Associate Vice President, Marketing, University of Calgary

What needs to be celebrated is confidence and ease. As a woman reaches midlife, moves through it, and navigates any of its challenges, she also has the opportunity to shine a big bright light on who she is and what she wants next – for her health, her career, her relationships and more. This is a fairly new phenomenon for our generation. We are some of the first women in history to reach 50 years – with the opportunity to plan for (at least) 50 more!

Shirley Weir
Women’s Health Advocate & Founder,

I think the 50 year old is inspiring to young women. They want to accomplish what the 50 year old has accomplished. But they don’t want to look like the 50 year old. We are still driven by physical appearances.

Carol Shmygol
VP Marketing and Brand, ATB Financial

Our image in the world is very important to us, but if the 35 year old is reflected back to us all the time that’s just wrong. I’d love to see myself on a runway. I’d love to see a 55 year old just rocking it.

Susan Veres
SVP, Strategy & Business Development,
Calgary Municipal Land Corporation

The Dinner

Desiree Bombenon President & CEO, SureCall Contact Centers Ltd. Lisa Corcoran VP, Marketing and Communications, Calgary Economic Development Bernadette Fernandes Founder and CEO, The Varanda Network Kim Lawrence Associate Vice President, Marketing, University of Calgary Lara Murphy Co-Founder, Ryan Murphy Construction Inc. Manjit Minhas Co-Founder & CEO at Minhas Breweries Dragon on CBC Dragons’ Den Carol Shmygol VP Marketing and Brand, ATB Financial Karen Stewart CEO at Fairway Divorce Solutions, Founder & CEO Bumble Bees Venture Capital Inc. Susan Veres SVP, Strategy & Business Development, Calgary Municipal Land Corporation Shirley Weir Women’s Health Advocate & Founder,


Women over 50 are a fully engaged group with many life stages yet to live, contributions to make and challenges to overcome. They represent an economic powerhouse and, like any consumer, are set to use their power on their terms.

Capture the potential: what if we were as preoccupied with the over 50 demographic as we are with the under 30? What if we aligned our marketing efforts with the influence of Canadian women over 50?


Broaden the perspective. Aspirations also age and women over 50 aspire to more than looking younger. Are we ready to celebrate their desire to keep accomplishing, building and exploring just like they have for the last 30 years?


Create new milestones after 50: We’ve created the milestones to obsess over (like retirement) – what if we gave milestone status to the woman over 50 who just went back to school? Or who started her own business?


Age is no longer a reliable indicator. Why not follow your purpose instead of a target? Have you considered the shared passions and values across generations of women as an anchor point for your brand?


Women over 50 have been ignored by the media for too long. Here are some examples of brands that are being inclusive, not just giving women over 50 space but showing just how compelling their stories are.

RBC ‘the next 30’ campaign

Source: RBC Archive 2016, Royal Bank of Canada

My Next 30

Royal Bank of Canada shows all the possibilities that could happen when you could have up to 30 years in a whole new phase of life. By showing different scenarios and reframing the outdated image of retirement, RBC offers a contemporary, realistic depiction of what ‘the next 30’ means for different people.

Diverse models in Simons ads

Source: Simons Website, Simons


While many brands have made efforts to include diverse models when it comes to size and ethnicity, Simons also includes women of different ages within each category, including them as equally aspirational in their line-up.

Stylish and social seniors images collection

Source: Ads of the World, Getty Images

Stylish and Social Seniors Collection

Getty Images has developed a collection of images to portray a new generation redefining what it means to be a “senior.” The scenarios are frequently no different from what you may see in a younger generation, reflecting the truth of how “seniors” are living their lives.

Chart New Territory

This is a case for seeing women over 50. Not just because they have money and not because there are so many of them, but because women over 50 are doing amazing things through their 50s, 60s, 70s and 80s that have never been done before. This is new territory. Women haven’t lived to know what a long life after 50 means, and society hasn’t yet adapted to it. In 2018, when we live an average of three more decades after 50, a whole lifetime of experiences, challenges and opportunities await us. It’s time for marketing to catch up to reality, celebrate the multiple stages of life after 50 and help women and men realize it to the fullest.

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