Guest Blog: Entrepreneurship in Later Life, When Markets Are Ripe

By Mark Venning

Entrepreneurship in later life. At the risk of being prescriptive by way of writing a textbook definition of this venture, or you might say – adventure, I did learn early on that this movement would have legs as time went on. Gathering evidence of this, working directly in the front lines of the career development field since the mid-90’s, with a focus on entrepreneurship, it has been a privilege to help and encourage others to fulfill their goals while at the same time being realistic with people about keeping a healthy perspective on the challenges – reality bites as it were.

Let us not over inflate the trend bubble on this, the notion that suggests that legions of people over age 50 are breaking free to start and run a business, for it is not all it will turn out to be. From what I have observed, working with clients exploring this option, and for those who do it, the journey is often episodic in nature, and in addition to that, there are multiple variations of how people actually describe, design and construct their entrepreneurial story.

We must begin this discussion with understanding the motivations. Why do people in this rather large age zone (over 50), even want to consider this? As I often ask first, where are you on a scale from being – 1 (curious) to 5 (exploring) to 10 (real intent)? Not surprisingly, given the profile segmentations of the over 50’s, the responses tend to land somewhere in the middle.

What are those motivations?

Depending on the person’s situation at a given life stage, more than the actual age itself, the top responses are variations on three lines of thought:

  • can’t afford to retire, need/desire to supplement financial plans with earned income
  • too young to retire, need/desire to stay challenged or engaged
  • be my own boss, want flexibility, tired of working in the corporate environment

However, behind these statements, quite often there is a harboured wish to continue to look for a traditional job, hence the episodic nature of some entrepreneurial ventures. For example, it is not untypical for those who take the route of independent consulting to take on a full time position offered by a business client, and after a few years wander back to independence.

Probing people further in conversation, it turns out in many cases, that the word entrepreneurship sits very weighty on their minds, but when you turn it into a discussion of possibilities around “a range of self-employment options”, the explorer becomes more open minded.

What are those possibilities?

To start, I am keen to find out what ideas people already have in their heads. Sometimes several, though not always fully developed, these ideas fall under three general categories:

  • market my own expertise as an independent consultant or contractor
  • start a home based, web based business – product, service or craft
  • start a business or buy a franchise, build it to sell in a number of years

With the next two-part question: what is your specific business idea and to what extent have you determined that there is an obtainable market for it? …the answer is, “it’s a work in progress”.

Is there an obtainable market for you? That is a pretzel shaped question. On one twist, what differentiation, value and relevance to you bring to a given market, and the other twist is, what is the gap or unmet need in a market that you know you can serve?

While in discussions stemming from this question, I find that there are those who have little patience for the market research process and an under estimation of the ramp up period or timelines to get a business off and running. This is also accompanied by an under estimated realization that continuous life transitions as we age will require frequent recalibrations of business and personal goals.

Now there is another way forward where the possibilities can be several, simultaneously or sequentially, lived in the form of a portfolio of income streams. Interest or intent increases here as most people I have met, “explorers” of entrepreneurship in later life, have seen the merit in this model, because it can be modified over a longer period of later life stages. In that sense, this is a flexible, fluid from of self-employment, regenerative in process.

Enterprisers at any age

To re-frame this picture of entrepreneurship over the next decade, at whatever age we are, as market needs shift and traditional employment systems continue to reconstruct, it will require the curious, creative and collaborative mind-set of an enterpriser. We are all next decade enterprisers, and in a human service economy, there will be more need for social enterprisers at the same time as a renaissance for micro businesses, networked alliances & independent wide achievers, who like a da Vinci, learn to re-apply their talents to where the work meets the need.

Often spiffed up for marketing purposes by language like “seniorpreneur” or “boomerprenur”, we should note, that while entrepreneurial activity may have increased in this over 50 age group, the overall self-employment rate in Canada over the last several years has stayed constant at around 15.5 percent. At the same time with the continuum of demographic shifts in mind, the so named “generation X” is now entering their early 50’s and I don’t think they see themselves as seniors.

As we move into the next decade there is no reason to suspect that the exploration or intent level will diminish when it comes to entrepreneurship in later life, but two things will need to happen.

First, a healthier resource system to educate and support people will need to surface, one that demystifies the concept of entrepreneurship and makes it less about age and more about marketability. Second, more research is needed to understand the motivations, options, patterns and cycles of entrepreneurship or self-employment over a person’s life course.

__________________________________________________________________________________ Mark Venning works primarily with non-profit & business leaders offering insights and direction on the Business & Social Aspects of Aging Demographics and helps organizations adapt their thinking to meet the challenges of “recoding a longevity society” which include designing age inclusive communities and creating opportunities for inter-generational collaboration with an enterprising mind-set. www.changerangers.com

Pilot Dance Project Explores The Benefits of Dance Participation

The Centre for Elder Research is conducting a pilot project that explores the benefits of dance participation for individuals experiencing multiple chronic health conditions. Older adults are invited to participate in 12 weeks (two days a week) of complimentary dance classes. The classes will be led by a dance professional who will be providing modified instruction such as seated dancing.

In order to be eligible to participate in the dance program, the older adults must be 65 years of age and older. Both men and women are welcome! Participants must also be experiencing mobility issues and at least two other chronic health conditions.

Classes will run on Tuesday and Thursdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., starting Tuesday, April 4 and running until Thursday, June 22.

If you would like to know more about this program or to register for the classes, contact Kate Dupuis at 905-845-9430 extension 4229 or email Kate at kate.dupuis@sheridancollege.ca

See flyer for further details.

Guest Blog: 5 Principles for Designing Delightful Digital Experiences for Seniors

1yob0vag9wywilhvdpp2ylqKaye Mao, a fourth-year student in the Interaction Design program is completing her independent thesis entitled ‘Exploratory use, and learning of, mobile touch-based technologies’ (title subject to change) with the Centre. She is interested in how we learn to use new technologies, specifically mobile touch screen technologies.

Kaye’s guest blog for this month, 5 Principles for Designing Delightful Digital Experiences for Seniors, discusses some of the barriers older adults experience when using new technology. She also shares five design principles from her research that guided her “in designing delightful digital experiences for seniors aged 60+”.

To read Kaye’s blog click on the link below:
5 Principles for Designing Delightful Digital Experiences for Seniors

 

Guest Blog: Aging-In-Place Assessment

homeBy Mary Jane Carroll

We need your help! Over the next few weeks students and faculty in the Bachelor of Interior Design program will be looking for community volunteers to participate in our “aging-in-place” study. If you are aged 50 or older and own your own home, and if you would prefer to stay in that home for as long as possible but are unsure of the type and cost of home modifications available to you, then please consider this opportunity!

The study is scheduled to begin this March. The goal is to provide older adult homeowners with a free in-home assessment by trained, qualified interior design students. These students will help you to understand the types of affordable, available options currently on the market to support your safety and comfort for the years ahead.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a research study, and should be regarded as such. Although we will provide cost estimates of potential home modifications the students will not be able to either sell any products or to provide any home renovation services to the homeowner. This is a study to raise awareness only.

Why in-home assessments? More than 80% of older adults surveyed in a recent CARP study indicated that they would prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible. At the same time, many were unaware of the type and cost of home modifications necessary or available to support this goal. Our goal is to bring together local homeowners with qualified student researchers to help provide information on affordable, practical home modification solutions that will bridge this gap and encourage healthy aging in place.

Who can participate? Any older adult homeowners (condos, townhouses, single family homes) living in the Mississauga, Oakville, and Hamilton area with plans to remain in their current home for as long as possible.

What’s involved? Student researchers will be matched with participants to evaluate the aging-in-place readiness of your home. They will be using a custom checklist to identify potential problem areas in your home. In addition, and with your permission, they will take site measurements and photos to include in a report that will be provided to you after their visit.

Is it safe? All student groups are supervised and trained by the principal investigator, Professor Mary Jane Carroll.

Time involved? You can expect two visits from the teams. The first visit could last as long as two hours with students carefully working through the checklist and asking you a few questions. The second session will be shorter, when the results of the assessment are presented to you along with cost estimates for potential modifications. The assessment package is yours to keep free of charge!

Interested in participating? Please contact me, Professor Mary Jane Carroll, either via email at maryjane.carroll@sheridancollege.ca or by telephone at 905-510-4993.

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Mary Jane Carroll is a professor in the Bachelor of Interior Design program at Sheridan College. She developed a specialized post-diploma program at Sheridan called “Aging in Place Design Specialist”. Mary Jane was published in “Universal Design: Creating Inclusive Environments,” and has presented her papers on Universal Design in England and the USA.