Innovations in technology and medicine are contributing to overall older populations in most industrialised nations. This has prompted some to tout the negative impact this demographic trend could have on healthcare and other tax burdens. However, with an increased life span, some seniors are utilizing their golden years to manifest tangible gold for themselves and the economy.
A study by the Gerontological Society of America defies the myth that entrepreneurship is exclusively a young person’s game. In fact it is seniors, defined in the study as 50 and above, who are the most entrepreneurial. This late in life entrepreneurial spirit has far reaching implications on our society moving forward in the 21 century.
The authors make evident that senior entrepreneurship is not a fad, it is an institution. In fact
“more than half of all U.S. small business owners were age 50 and over in 2012”. Furthermore, in 2014 the Kauffman Foundation and Legal Zoom “found that the same percentage of all new businesses—15 percent—were started by entrepreneurs aged 18 to 29 and those 60 and over”.
The prevalence of seniors starting and running companies is aided by their maturity and past involvements. Older individuals have years of experience to draw from whether is corporate experience or managing a family that can be applied to new endeavors. In addition, most senior entrepreneurs are opportunity-driven entrepreneurs and tend to start larger, better-planned, and ultimately more successful businesses.
There are direct and indirect implications of senior entrepreneurship that should not be overlooked. Most importantly, because new businesses create jobs, senior entrepreneurs are creating employment for themselves and others rather than taking jobs away from the younger generation. This activity simultaneously boosts local and national economy and contributes billions of dollars in state and federal taxes. Running a company requires involvement in a community and engagement with others. There is evidence that older people who remain engaged in life stay healthier (Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, 2014), making fewer demands on social service/entitlement programs. Therefore senior entrepreneurism is not only stimulating economic activity, but also reducing the burden on public systems.
Discouragingly, the United States has no formal program that targets senior entrepreneurs and provides services that help initiate, manage, or transition out of businesses. As the authors point out, the world is beginning to understand how senior entrepreneurs with their wealth of work and life experience, deep networks, and eagerness to remain productive are a huge untapped resource. Indeed, it is time we stop thinking about this demographic as a liability and instead recognize them as assets and help break down barriers to unleashing their potential.
Contributed by Max Rankin.
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