Entrepreneurship and Aging: a Growing Market

Although the impending retirement of the Baby Boomer generation brings many complicated challenges, it also opens up a great deal of opportunity. Individuals with creative solutions to the common problems associated with aging can not only help older adults age well, they can help themselves create a viable business. Additionally, a market for other age brackets could be tweaked and targeted to older adults and their preferences.

American Society on Aging Conference: Business on Aging Forum

The American Society on Aging’s 2010 conference addressed the issue of entrepreneurship and aging with an all day forum. Ken Dychtwald, President of Age Wave, kick-started the forum by discussing marketing tactics aimed at the older adult market. He talked about how to respectfully speak to older generations and gave examples of how it was done well by Sony and Pepsi. Dychtwald is a veritable Forrest Gump in the sense that he has been a part of some amazing moments in time. As a yoga instructor early on in his career, he was part of the group that coined the term “holistic health”. He had the pleasure of knowing Eric Erickson and Jonas Saulk. He also reported to be in a meeting with General Motors and mentioned that they should have a Lifeline type device for cars, thus On Star was born. He has been using the experiences and knowledge gained through his life and guides business people toward the specific needs of older adults. You too can take your ideas and create your own age-related business. Arlene Harris, co-creator of the Jitterbug Phone, also spoke at the Business and Aging forum. Her advice was be personally inspired by your business ideas and eventual ventures. She urged future business owners to make their friends and family into a personal board of directors. They will be the ones supporting you all the way and need to believe in your product or service as much as you do.

Post Menopausal Power Zone

One doesn’t have to be young to see their business plan come to fruition. Mary Furlong, a proud 61-year-old woman and creator of three age-related businesses, spoke alongside Harris in a panel on ‘Reaching New Markets Through Innovation’. She boldly stated that she was in her “post menopausal power zone” and spoke with unnerving enthusiasm about her own experiences as businesswoman. She seemed to follow her instincts through out her career and also put in the work required, stating that it takes about seven years to get a business going. She not only encouraged the audience to move forward with their ideas, she also encouraged another panelist, Dr. Marion Somers. The 69-year-old Dr. Somers, who counted Furlong as a strong supporter, created the iPhone applications Elder 411 and Elder 911. Prior to the development of these applications, Dr. Somers was the Director of Hunter College’s Geriatric Care Management Certificate Program. She was able to develop her comprehensive website and iPhone applications by utilizing her many years of experience. The overall message of the panel seemed to be: • Unleash your creativity • Follow your instincts • Obtain and maintain both personal and professional support • Be patient and work hard to see your ideas to fruition

Plant a Seed

There are so many business ideas that can blossom from the impending influx of older adults – all one has to do is plant the seed. Of course, there will be a great deal of hard work and pitfalls along the way, but what an adventure! Your big idea could be one that allows older adults to enjoy themselves through dancing in their stylish yet comfortable shoes. Let’s face it, older adults still want to dress fabulously and be noticed. You could provide them with the wardrobe to do so and have fun in process. So, if you have the kernel for a business idea in the corner of your mind, explore it, talk about it, breath life into it. It might be the very thing that helps older adults to live meaningful lives and it could help you to build your very own fantastic and flourishing business. This post was edited by Mark Schmidt. Thank you to sustainablerotterdam on flickr.com for the photo.

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