By Adele Robertson
140 years ago, the average life span in the Western world was 45 years old. In 2016, many Canadians can look forward to adding forty more years to that average. The question of leaving full time wage work at the typical “retirement” age of 65 is being scrutinized. 65 is the ‘new’ 75 or, even 80!
Today, even the word RETIRE is on the brink itself of being retired. The idea of a continued career, an encore career, finding other means of activity which generate income, is quickly being embraced by the boomer cohort. Why is this? Doesn’t the picture of the sunshine years, the endless golf games, and freedom 55 resonate with most people? Clearly not, should we believe many latest studies and, statistics.
One answer comes from a new book by Chris Farrell called “UNRETIREMENT, How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community and the Good Life”. Older people are starting businesses more than any other age group. The over 50’s often have a number of competitive advantages in the marketplace. Consider also the great lure of self employment; allowing for flexibility and control over your life…you are the boss!
There are myriad reasons for this economic and social turnabout. Obviously, one compelling factor is the wonderful health many enjoy. The US Center for Disease Control projects that the boomer group, (generally thought of as those born between 1948 and 1964), have an 84% average of “excellent health”. If you are healthy, why would you wish to settle down on the porch in the rocking chair?
The economic realities of the 21st Century translate into financial need for many individuals. They simply must continue to generate an income. 68% of Canadians will have no pension. Some individuals still have pensions that that income is insufficient to cover their normal and desired lifestyle. Even if there is not a pressing financial need, there is the reality of what to do with one’s time when your lifetime career ends. There are 2000 hours a year to fill when that job has ended. As well, changes in corporations often translate into downsizing leaving numerous people over 50 without a job.
Although Canadian statistics are quite difficult to isolate, the 2012 Stats Canada census determined that 49% of new Canadian businesses were started by people over the age of 50. Society is giving birth to a new phenomena: SENIORPRENEURISM. It is also known that this business demographic has doubled in recent years. When one realizes that small and medium business enterprises generate 97% of the economy, Seniorpreneurs are certainly a force to be reckoned with.
“A greater number of older workers may be self-employed in the future because the baby boomers will reach retirement with considerably more wealth and education than prior cohorts:, writes Rand Corporation economists. A Kauffmann Foundation report provides additional rationale for the rise in seniorpreneuers. Quite simply, older workers have skills, wisdom, experience, credibility, and key to many endeavours, they have developed superb networks. The various new technologies, notably the Internet and small business software, lower start up costs considerable. As well, those experienced workers desire to continue employment but they demand greater autonomy and flexibility. All of this can be obtained when you launch your own business.
Many individuals will relish the idea of an encore career which is self driven. At the same time, a cautionary tale suggests that older workers understand their motivations, their values and, their ability to absorb risk. Those risk avoidance individuals would be wise not to invest all their savings in a new venture, at an older age.
It is exciting that so many former seniors are retiring the world retire as they embark on often unique and innovative roles in their third life stage.
The Sheridan Centre for Elder Research is in an ideal position to be both a sounding board for would be seniorpreneuers and possibly, a physical and digital hub for cross current exchanges and programmes. We are currently, with the help of Sheridan student, Luisa Cardoza, carrying out preliminary research on the state of Canadian olderpreneurs. It is clear there is a vacuum in data and comprehensive research on the state of this activity in Canada. Much, much more is required to determine next steps. It is clear that substantial studies are in order and we plan to do just that in the near future.
____________________________________________________________________________ Adele Robertson is the CEO and Founder of V Generation and a Sheridan Centre for Elder Research advisory board member.