Baby boomers are fuelling a burgeoning global market – labelled the silver economy – estimated to be worth $15 trillion by 2020.
There are about 962 million people over 60 in the world today – more than twice as many as in 1980 – and by 2050, that number will more than double again to nearly 2.1 billion. People are living longer, healthier lives than ever before – and need to fund those lives – and with that comes demand for services, and opportunities to work longer and drive new business.
Georgetown University Professor and founder of the Global Social Enterprise Initiative at the McDonough School of Business Bill Novelli says: “The ageing population is one of the most important trends in that the classic dream of retiring at 65 to travel and play golf has almost evaporated. “You have to put ‘retirement’ in quotes because nobody knows what it is any more,” says Novelli.
The 2018 Small Business Trends for Baby Boomers survey of more than 2600 small business owners and entrepreneurs in the US uncovered interesting details about Americans over 50.
Overall, entrepreneurs over 50 make up more than half of America’s small business owners, forbes.com reports. One third of all small business owners were between 50 and 59; 17 per cent were 60 to 69, and four per cent were 70 or older. Three quarters of entrepreneurs over 50 were male and one quarter were female.
Forty-two per cent opened a business to pursue their passion, 36 per cent because “the opportunity presented itself,” and 22 per cent because they were dissatisfied with corporate America. Just 15 per cent started their business after they lost their jobs.
An Australian study names pharmaceuticals and healthcare, financial services, and consumer industries such as travel and leisure as the key areas that have enormous potential for innovation.
At-home catering is one such area in demand from older Australians.
Perth businesswoman Natasha Winburn-Clarke says older customers have become one of her biggest markets and older people her preferred employees. Mature workers were a “good fit”, she told the ABC, adding that one new employee had alerted her to the existence of the Federal Government incentive, Restart, which aims to encourage businesses to employ older Australians.
Dr Alex Maritz, from LaTrobe University, said studies showed strong growth in the number of older people starting successful businesses. A variety of fields were covered, he said, but service provision and accommodation were prominent.
He said his research showed older people’s shortage of time was a strong driver to succeed quickly.
New South Wales Minister for Ageing Tanya Davies says research shows a wealth of opportunity for small businesses that cater to the seniors’ market. She urges potential owners and entrepreneurs to use the seniors’ cards offered in states and territories to make their businesses more visible.
A recent national report, Employing Older Workers, found that employers’ attitudes were changing, but that up to one third were reluctant to hire workers over a certain age and, for more than two thirds of that group, the age was 50.
A growth in new business start-ups catering to older people shapes as the perfect opportunity to employ older Australians.
Melissa Gong Mitchell, executive director of the Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA), says older employees are generally more loyal, offered seasoned experience and institutional knowledge and could mentor younger employees.
“Older people are the future of the workplace,” she says. “If, as an employer, you recognise and honour the changes that are happening in your employees’ lives, then you gain a competitive advantage among employers because people are going to be more loyal to you.”
Have you noticed new businesses starting up to serve an ageing population? Have you started your own? Are you working beyond the traditional retirement age just because you want to?
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