The Grandeur of Old Age

Harsh New Reality

In Vancouver, B.C. Canada, the YWCA is receiving 40 applications for every 12 spots in a new program designed for men and women over 55 who want to get back into the workforce.  The average age of participants is 62.

“We’ve had people who haven’t been able to pay their rent or are living at a relative’s or a friend’s couch,” YWCA career adviser Lynda McFee said. “There’s such a need out there with mature workers.”

Participants in the Job Options Older Workers Program may have retired a few years ago, but found they are going through their pensions too quickly, McFee said.  Others are not yet collecting their (CPP) Canada Pension Plan and are desperate for income.  Many have had health issues or stopped work to care for aging parents, and now face job hunting not only as senior, but also with a gap in employment,  Many are single, confused and don’t know what the future holds for them.  The golden age is not so golden after all for many seniors facing retirement hardships.

Gap In Employment

Personally speaking, I realized how important a gap in employment is to potential employers.  The average waiting time for seniors looking for part-time or full-time work is approaching 2 years and more.  My own unemployment lasted several years when eventually I became permanently unemployed with no hope of getting any kind of corporate job.  I was forced to create my own employment which led me to the Encore Stage of my Second Act.

Waiting For The Revolution To Come

David Hurdon is one of the growing number of Canadians who can’t wait, “I need to work,” he says.  Hurdon left his last full-time “formal” job as vice-president of retailing at winemaker Kittling Ridge at age 54.  That was 10 years ago, and since then he has been self-employed and never earned enough to set aside a retirement nest egg. 

When David heard about a job fair run by CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons)-a group representing older Canadians; that is specifically aimed at people trying to get back into the workforce.  David was optimistic about finding a good job.

Lisa Taylor says he has every right to be optimistic.  Taylor is president of The Challenge Factory and is an activist promoting a transformation of the Canadian workforce. “The concept of continuing to work in your sixties and seventies is a fairly new construct,” says Taylor after giving a pep talk to an audience of some 200 elders at the event.

Where Is The Beef? (Meaningful Jobs For Seniors 50 Plus)

The problem is that most of the jobs being offered to highly skilled mature workers right now just aren’t that attractive or meaningful.

About 600 people attended CARP’s elder job fair, billed as “work re-imagined,” for example.  But the jobs on offer were not the kinds of things the people were hoping for, said Lisa Taylor.  Lisa saw David Hurdon slumped in a chair looking discouraged; having been offered minimum-wage and volunteer jobs.  There was Mary Kay and Avon, and many less-well-known products to sell door to door or to friends.  There were franchises that required an investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

There were agencies like the Third Quarter trying to help you find jobs.  Angelina Hamangoda is a lawyer who has worked around the world.  Her last job before becoming unemployed was part-time at an after-school daycare, and she could find nothing at the CARP event.  “I feel very frustrated right now,” Angelina said at the CARP event. “I think all my education is down the drain.”

Open Message To CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons):

I think that there is hope and possible solutions to help the Canadian seniors 50+ transition to a comfortable pre-retirement or retirement life.  At the present time CARP’s strength is basically advocating for more entitlements from the Federal Government.  However; Canada and many other counties are shifting their resources to help seniors 50+ create their own job or small business.  Currently there is a 50+ entrepreneur movement happening around the World that promotes productive longevity vis-a-vis the present passive retirement, more closely related to a leisure retirement and sponging more entitlements from the government.

When we hear of stories such as David’s and Angelina’s given above you would think that alarm bells would be heard by large organizations such as CARP for example.  I personally think that we need a round table discussion group organized by CARP.  At the same time let’s have the seniors themselves create and organize local community coffee meetings which would provide real information from the grassroots.

I’m assuming that CARP is knowledgeable about what is going on in the USA  on this specific subject. Recently I listened to a live conference through the Internet based in Washington.  The US Senate Hearings were discussing the topic of ‘Senior Entrepreneurship’.  The partners that participated in these hearings were AARP (American Association of Retired Persons), S.C.O.R.E. (USA Retired Executives) providing mentor ship to potential entrepreneurs and small business owners, the SBA (Small Business Administration) and other ‘senior entrepreneurship’ experts.  There is an urgent need to discuss and implement ways to help seniors 50+ hands-on individually (not going to some useless job fair). Instead of the David’s and Angelina’s of Canada being frustrated and confused we need to develop some suitable community based programs, that would improve the quality of life for ALL seniors and necessarily make them more active, creative, productive and prosperous. The seniors deserve to have some meaningful and important work or even working as an entrepreneur or small business owner in their Second or Third act.

Seniors (50 Plus) Search For Meaning


The dilemma is Seniors 50+ are anxious about retirement and having a healthier longer life, but at the same time they dread the possibility of not having a meaningful retirement life. Seniors need to ask themselves some questions such as Who are you, What do you know, What can you do and What resources do you have on hand to create something of value? Also, What is your present physical, mental and emotional health, and do you need to work on some aspects to help you be a more challenging person in your pre-retirement and retirement life.

Question- Many seniors want to know how is it possible to say yes to life in spite of the different challenges seniors face such as pain, guilt and death?  Can life retain its potential meaning in spite of everything?


The author, Viktor E. Frankl in his book, Man’s Search For Meaning, said that “life is potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those which are most miserable.  And this in turn presupposes the human capacity to creatively turn life’s negative aspects into something positive or constructive.”  Victor explains this by saying, “In other words, what matters is to make the best of any given situation “The best,” however, is that which in Latin is called ‘optimum’- hence in the face of tragedy and in view of the human potential which at it’s best always allows for: (1) turning suffering into a human achievement and accomplishment; (2) deriving from guilt the opportunity to change oneself for the better; and (3) deriving from life’s transitoriness an incentive to take responsible action.”

Quotation: “Never live in hope and expectation with your arms folded”- Anonymous


At age 65, Colonel Harland Sanders (KFC) turned a setback into a victory.  The Colonel used the cooking skills he learned from his mother and later in life opened a little restaurant that failed when traffic was re-routed away from it.

He was 65, a senior citizen and he was broke.  This is when the Colonel sat on his front porch searching for his meaning of life when the mailman came up the steps and handed him an envelope.  It was from the U.S. Government and contained his first social security check in the amount of $105.  Staring at the check there was something surging within him that said, “My life isn’t over and I’m not going to sit in a rocking chair and take money from the Government.”  To make a long story short, the Colonel made Kentucky Fried Chicken become an almost instant success. Becoming an instant success was not part of the advice given to other 65- year olds.  He said that “If a child of God thinks right, if he is right, he will have the power to rise above any defeat and conquer it.”


Personally, I am still learning and I am also searching for the meaning of life.  On January 15, 2014 I attended a seminar presentation given by Alexis Leclair of Uptake Consulting who said that “Retirement has always been a huge life change.  Although we still call it by the same name, today’s retirement is different.  It’s longer. It’s healthier.  Options are diverse.  Our needs and expectations may not be the same as generations before us.” 

In essence, Alexis talks about the core subjects of needing to matter, finding meaning, valuing work, small business or an Encore career and managing retirement satisfaction and happiness.

Alexis summarizes her thoughts in the following paragraph:

Mattering, because most people have never heard about it but psychologists say it is critical to our happiness.  Meaning, because since dirt was invented, people-retired or not-have wanted to have it in their lives. Work, because it’s gotten a bad rap by media and society, and we need to see work in a different light.  Managing happiness (optimism and resiliency), because ours may have been eroded when our identity, our connections and more dwindled in retirement years.  All of the topics, information and strategies were chosen because many of us never learned about them from our parents or in our busy adult years.


To stay on the theme of seniors search for meaning, I attended another seminar presentation on January 22, 2014.  The presenter was Carol Kodish-Butt, an Outreach Coordinator with (SEESA) South East Edmonton Seniors Association Activity Center.  Approx. 20 members attended this seminar.

Personally, I always thought that seniors have different values and expectations compared to others.  in most cases many seniors will need a ‘hands on’ learning approach in any given Lifelong learning session.  This presentation given by Carol was not a lecture standing in front of the room but it was an ‘in your face’ round table discussion where none of the seniors attending could escape or hide anywhere.  In a lecture presentation usually you have 1-3 questions asked at the END of the presentation, whereas; in Carol’s talk everyone was on the Encore stage by first introducing themselves and then EVERYONE contributing in the 90 minute ‘pressure cooker’ like session.

Instead of being isolated and ignored everyone experienced part of what Victor Frankl shared in Man’s Search For Meaning when he talked about pain, guilt and death eg. one senior in the group shared the fact that his spouse died recently.

In this particular presentation Carol introduced ways to: stay interested in your life when you’re no longer working in a corporate job; figure out what will make your retirement life more satisfying or make you happy; and answer the question- What to do when the dreaded “de-motivation” bug attacks?

De-Motivation, What De-Motivates You?

Briefly, we know that the biggest stigma most seniors have to confront is Ageism.  Even when legislation is in place to stop this practice there are still those forces in corporate life and personal life as well that refuse to give in to this human right for seniors.

Seniors also have the same opportunities to climb ‘Maslow’s’ Ladder i.e. going from the first step your basic needs (food, shelter, safety) through to self-esteem to the highest levels of knowledge and understanding.  At the top of the ladder are the lofty goals of transcendence and self-actualization.

Carol also outlined the possible reasons that can de-motivate you.  These are as follows:

*Fear- still do it.

*Wrong goals- essential vs social self vs self-acutalization.

*Lack of Clarity- try to vision a more meaningful retirement life.

*Value Conflict- prioritize your values.

*Lack of Autonomy- get control over your project(s).

*Lack of Challenge- not small or big just grow from where you are today & enjoy.

*Grief- take time to heal & retire creatively.

*Loneliness- Get more new connections replacing old work connections if needed.

*Burn-Out- Get complete rest & re-energise yourself to perform on Second Encore Act.

*Not Knowing What to Do Next- Breakdown your own situation into more manageable pieces.

Last Quotation:  I’d like to end this particular discussion by a quote from Viktor Fankl when he says, “Just as life remains potentially meaningful under any conditions, even those that are most miserable, so too does the value of each and every person stay with him or her, and it does so because it is based on the values that he or she has realized in the past, and is not contingent on the usefulness that he or she may or may not retain in the present.”







A PERSONAL NOTE- I’d like to hear from my readers if they have been helped through this Blog and what you have learned if anything in order for you to achieve a more active, creative, and productive retirement life?  Any comments will be very much appreciated.  Have the great retirement life that you deserve!  Thanks for Listening.




Retirement Rythem: Finding Yours


Herbert C. Northcott in the book titled, Aging in Alberta Third Edition said that “A stereotype is an erroneous generalization about a social group, for example, “old people are poor,” or “sick”, or “lonely.”  Such statements imply that all old people are disadvantaged, or at least that the majority are.  While some seniors are disadvantaged, the majority are not.  Nevertheless, there is a tendency to assume that seniors are worse off than they really are.


The Plus 50 initiative was featured in the October issue of the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Bulletin in the article “Ready for Your Second Career?” The article discusses how baby boomers are launching new second careers and profiles boomers who have made the leap.  This is a major new AARP initiative designed to help people explore what’s next in their lives.  The AARP Bulletin ranks in the top tier of the highest circulation publications in the United States and reaches more than 37 million readers.


A growing number of baby boomers are creating and building their own businesses.  The annual entrepreneurial activity report published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found the share of new entrepreneurs ages 55 to 64 grew from 14.3% in 1996 to 23.4% last year.  Part of the growth is the result of the overall aging of North America.  But experts say older people are flocking to self-employment because of a frustrating job market and the growing ease and falling cost of starting a business.

An estimated 9 million Americans and 1 million Canadians ages 44 to 70 are engaged in second careers and 31 million Americans and 3 million Canadians are interested in pursuing one.  A survey from the Metlife Foundation and shows that within the next 10 years, 25 percent of boomers hope to start a business or nonprofit; and half of these people want to make a difference in the World while earning money.

But even if they don’t get paid, “older adults want to remain connected, relevant, useful and engaged.  There’s this collective feeling of ‘we’re not done yet,’ says Marci Alboher, author of the Encore Career Handbook.

To get started regarding finding your retirement rythem speak with with people in your target field, and volunteer for a place or mentor you admire before you make the leap. “Experimenting in your 50s prepares you psychologically for a new chapter rather than being blindsided if your career ends suddenly or you’re too consumed to think about it,” says Founder Marc Freedman.

QUESTION- Mature adults want to find their OWN Retirement Rythem but where do you go for some help?

As I have mentioned many times in previous blog articles, we are currently living in a youth oriented society and as such most Government related resources will be ear marked for the Young Entrepreneurs(18-39) years old.  The 50+ demographic will probably need some funding and new leadership from other interested groups such as angel investors, sponsors and community leaders. 

What’s happening with the two largest seniors groups in North America namely the AARP and CARP?  In Canada CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) most of the resources are dedicated to providing higher quality health care for Canadians and more tax credits for seniors eg. pension income split for seniors.  In essence, the focus is NOT on ‘productive longevity’ to make seniors more active, creative and productive but mainly on getting additional entitlements.

In the USA, Life Reimagined (AARP INITIATIVE) has been created to help you navigate change no matter what situation you find yourself in.  Life Reimagined involves six practices that guide you through change.  Think of it as a personalized guidance system.  Start where you are in your life, and see where the possibilities lead you. i.e.reflect, connect, explore, choose, repak & act. 

For more help in this area go to hash tag reimagine (#reimagine).  This is a Twitter discussion site to tap into your passions, reinvent careers, and create new possibilities.

Briefly, there is another option to help the current or potential 50+ Entrepreneur. There is an organization in Britain that is called Enterprise Nation.  In my own opinion I think that Canada should look at this option seriously to get more of the 50+ demographic involved in their own entrepreneurship project.  Enterprise Nation does networking events, startup classes and expert workshops for small business owners and would-be entrepreneurs. Enterprise Nation also have Professional Training & Coach’s. They are also well know for their ‘Startup Saturday’ event, which I think would be very suitable for potential 50+ entrepreneurs that might still have a daytime corporate job to go to.

Question for the Reader- Do you have any ideas about where the potential 50+ Entrepreneur could meet on a daily, weekly or monthly basis to discuss their OWN Retirement Rythem?  Thanks for reading this blog article!  Comments are very much appreciated.


Lifelong Learning & the Local Public Library


Lifelong Learning everyday is the key to pursuing an active, creative and productive life.  In preparation for becoming a senior entrepreneur and for successful aging it is very important to consider and study active brain activities.  Richard Restak, a neurologist said that, “aging can be thought of as the result throughout the body of a general wear-and-tear process.”

In all body organs except the brain, increased activity leads to more wear and tear and accelerated degeneration.  In the brain the principle of operation is unique.  Activation of nerve cells doesn’t lead to a general degeneration of function but, instead, to the maintenance of neurons during normal aging.

This is really quite an extraordinary situation if you think about it: the brain in contrast to every other organ in the body, has the potential to improve with use and to keep the edge into the ninth decade and beyond


In a satire piece written recently by a 30-something, fourth-year University of Alberta molecular biology student wrote in his student newspaper, the Gateway that “old people don’t belong at the U of A.” One of the reasons mentioned for this apparent social exclusion was that mature students ask “too many” questions and that these students often mention “what used to be”.

I understand that mature students have different behaviors and different expectations, but HOW can we create some structures that are more senior-friendly and show more respect for seniors?


I was very surprised to learn that Montreal and Vancouver tied for top spot in a global ranking of the world’s best public libraries, according to a recent study published by the university of Dusseldorf. The name of the study is, Public Libraries in the knowledge Society.  The key for Montreal and Vancouver was offerings such as the libraries digital resources and use of social media.


Not too long ago digital resources and the use of social media wasn’t important because only about 1/3 or less of all seniors were computer literate.  Recently, telephone surveys with more than 6,000 Canadians conducted on behalf of the Media Technology Monitor were used to compare technology trends among members of Gen Y defined as 24 to 33-year-old consumers, Gen Z (aged 18-23) and the 47-to-67 boomer demographic.

“While (boomers) have not grown up with publicly available Internet and wireless technologies, they have become avid users of these offerings,” states the report.  Younger people led in wireless technologies eg. early adoption of smartphones and streaming web video.

A significant fact is that the younger boomers in the survey between 47 and 57 were most likely to embrace tablets.  About 36 per cent of the consumers in the cohort said they owned a tablet, which is more than Gen Y (34 per cent) and Gen Z (28 per cent) respondents.


The Stanley A. Milner Library in my own hometown aims to provide an engaged learning experience in the heart of Edmonton, Alberta Canada.

In my own research I have found that seniors have different expectations in the fields of Lifelong Learning and Entrepreneurship.  What better way there is to engage more seniors than having them come to their own local public library.  in fact, Peter Schoenberg, Edmonton Public Library Manager of digital literacy initiatives and web services said, “Rather than borrowing a book and returning it three weeks later you LEARN something, it’s creating a space for hands-on learning,” said Peter Schoenberg.

The SPACE and it’s equipment are designed to allow the community a flexible area to pursue their creative outlets or just sit back and play video games with friends.  Novices can experiment with the space’s hard-and software and avoid the startup cost of a new creative pursuit.  I think that this is a perfect environment for seniors that already have surplus time but now need some empowerment to pursue new and different activities in their pre-retirement or retirement life. 


It’s my belief that we need to graduate from the traditional seniors’ centers to some new concepts in order to get more seniors to become more creative and productive.  My personal vision is to create community facilities that include wellness/recreation centers (including fitness centers c/w personal trainers), lifelong learning centers c/w program rooms that have senior-friendly hands-on learning.  The lifelong learning centers could start with the local public library as the HUB which through participation there could lead the senior in the direction of their own skills, interests, knowledge and resources.  Also, somewhere in those new facilities we also need space for a deli, coffee and Wi-Fi access for laptops, tablets, e Readers and any ‘other’ future digital products & services.

I think it’s also important to assess the ‘medical condition’ of the senior to ensure they are not trying to do more than they should for the present shape that they are in.  I believe that this new concept of learning would encourage seniors to be more active, creative, productive and prosperous in their second or third acts of their own life cycle.  Also, it would be a more holistic approach for the well being of every senior living well and being fully engaged in their own communities.


If anybody has some ideas about how we can create more senior-friendly lifelong learning facilities, please advise below?


Happy New Year, to everyone reading this Blog article!









Stereotyping The 50+ Demographic In North America

Global Entrepreneurship Week

Another Global Entrepreneurship Week has come and gone November 18-24/13.  Again, the primary focus is still on the potential and existing Young Entrepreneurs (18-39) years old.  As a result, most government resources are still dedicated to getting more young people to take a risk on creating their own employment, instead of applying for entry level jobs that are available in the marketplace.  And as usual no mention is about the plight of the 50+ Entrepreneur.  Besides myself does anybody really care and what are other people saying about this dilemma?

Are Seniors 50+ Assets or Liabilities?

“We need a major paradigm shift to get communities thinking of seniors as assets instead of liabilities,” said Jay Bloom, an activist on mental-health issues of the aging and a panelist, speaking to members of the Governor’s Commission on Senior Services at a retreat last week.  Furthermore, Mr. Bloom stated, “we know for instance (according to a Kauffman Foundation Study), that nationwide, the overwhelming number of new businesses started are launched by individuals over 50.  It’s time these individuals get the respect they deserve.”

Bloom and other commission members such as Jerry Cohen, State Director of AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) Oregon, said it’s time to get out a marketing message to dispel myths about seniors.

Duke Shepard, Human-Services Policy Adviser to Governor John Kitzhaber, said the ‘Oregon’ State has a lot of work to do to help seniors.  “Seniors are not just takers they’re volunteers, part of the workforce and working on small business startups,” Shepard said.  “We need active engagement of our seniors to make Oregon better.”

Seniors Categorized

Dr. Marty Shoemaker, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology in Vancouver, BC Canada commented in a recent LinkedIn discussion group that the issue is not aging, that happens to everybody even the young, but stereotyping of people at a certain age, (ageism) a bias that needs to adjust the overall health, life expectancy and vitality of seniors which is improving by leaps and bounds.  Dr. Shoemaker also offered that he liked the 55-65 yrs. old category to have a new view of that decade rather than “over the hill” and suggested words like “sustainers” or “extenders”.

Question- At what age then would you say you are “over the hill”?

Referencing Dr. Marty Shoemaker, let’s begin with the 55-65 age group in order to have a new view of that decade rather than “over the hill”.  I personally that they are Senior Boomers/Elders.  Another word that many people already know in Canada is being referred to as a “Zoomer” which is defined as a Boomer with Zip.

About the New Paradigm needed for aging I think that the Boomers/Zoomers/Seniors/Elders/Sustainers are basically individuals that cannot be painted with the same brush.  Some of these individuals love to spend their Winters in South America while others are still working full-time or part-time in a corporate job; OR if they don’t like their job many have transferable skills, knowledge and resources to pursue a business or social entrepreneur project.

Furthermore, I think that the mentioned “over the hill” title could be justified the instant that you stop re-inventing yourself.  How about the pop singers Paul McCartney (71) and Cher (67); Are they “over the hill”?  No! Paul McCartney and Cher have both recently created a new album of songs and they are still performing in live concerts around the World.  I believe that the new paradigm for aging should encourage and provide adequate hands-on business/personal support for people that want to pursue productive aging.

Also, I think the ‘new paradigm’ has to start with the senior.  A lot of seniors want to stay in their comfortable cocoons.  For those that desire to break out of their personal retirement cocoon we need more business or social support groups set-up, to help the senior transition to a possible Second or Third act n their pre-retirement or retirement life.  Unfortunately, to date we are seeing most of the Government resources and help being given to the Young (18-39) years old business or social entrepreneur.  Too many seniors are still being isolated and others are being told that they are ‘too old’ for any Government support programs.  This problem is compounded when there is downward pressures on annual budgets.  As a result, most seniors (including myself) are forced to go it alone where we experiment, stumble and continually re-asses our own project(s) hoping to have the right product or service at the right time, at the right price in the right place.

Question- What type of Entrepreneur Are You?

The following are some excerpts from what I think is a great Blog article written by Eric Quon-Lee, Blogger with the Huffington Post.  Eric’s article clarifies the statement that Entrepreneurship is for Everyone NOT just for the Young Entrepreneur.

Today’s venture capital community and media have heavily emphasized the youth oriented nature of entrepreneurship.  While young entrepreneurs populated the front covers of today’s magazine covers, they are part of a bigger entrepreneurship ecosystem.  From serial entrepreneurs with decades of experience to hobbyists turned business owners, there is a complete spectrum of entrepreneurship that has been overlooked by the media and those providing startup resources.

The simple reality is that the media’s focus on “youth” entrepreneurship while compelling is only part of the story.  Society needs more entrepreneurs and it must NOT only be one type of entrepreneurship.  Just as the startup ecosystem has produced a variety of companies producing a variety of products and services, society needs to start acknowledging that entrepreneurship comes in a variety of packages.

The numerous success stories in the media focus on the Millennial Generation of entrepreneurs eg. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook or the Stanford University founders of SnapChat, the media message concerning entrepreneurship has been based on youth and the instant success stories that have been generated thus far.

The 50+ Demographic and Entrepreneurship

I think that some varying types of entrepreneurs that have been overlooked and which I am particularly interested in are the following:

1) The Baby Boomer Entrepreneur: As thousands of Baby Boomers are caught in the shifting dynamics of the global economy, many are taking the opportunity to remake themselves and pursue projects that they would not be able to achieve until retirement.

2) The Socially Conscious Entrepreneur: With the foundational changes that are occurring in the global economy, individuals are increasingly refusing to compromise their personal values for the sake of employment.  They are increasingly demanding that the values of their employer match their personal ones.

In essence, we need more new and interesting entrepreneurs eg. the 50+ Entrepreneur and their startups that break the current Silicon Valley stereotype of a Millennial Generation programmer to demonstrate that entrepreneurship comes in all forms from ALL ages.

Question to Readers- Should ANY Government resources be used to help the 50+ Entrepreneur begin an Encore career; OR do you think that only the Young people under 40 years of age should have whatever help they need from Government sources?

50+ Entrepreneurs Have Abundant Wisdom

Maturity, Wisdom, and Confidence

Question- What makes seniors more likely to succeed in business?

Earle, L (2003) in “Background to Productive Aging” found a factor that will exert an impact upon grey entrepreneurial tendencies is the broader social context within which the individual operates.  some societies value aging and believe that older individuals have great wisdom and experience that is an important asset; others treat the aged as largely incapable and dependent persons with little left to contribute.  If a society is supportive of independent entrepreneurs as part of what is termed “productive aging”, then more individuals are likely to start or run businesses than would otherwise be the case. (Earle, 2003)

Baucus D, and Human, S.E. (1994) also provide evidence of the impact of strong networks in assisting the startup process, and suggest that such personal links can help older entrepreneurs gain both financial and marketing support.

Adequate capital to support venture formation is a key contingency in the success of entrepreneurs at any age.


C. Kumar and N. Patel, 72 years old- the inventor of the carbon dioxide laser, the holder of 38 patents, and the former head of the Physics and Engineering departments of Bell Labs- where he worked for 32 years- started his own small business.  Then 62, Patel sank $150,000 of his savings into launching his own company: Pramalytica.

“I guess I was trying to relive my youth,” he says, “I was doing something that I had not done before.”

However; Patel quickly realized that despite his vast experience he still had a lot to learn about starting his own firm.  Initially, Patel’s Santa Monica, California startup developed sensors that could analyze human breath for disease.  He shifted direction after realizing physicians preferred to lease rather than purchase such instruments and funding evaporated following the dot-com bust.  He then began making ammonia detection sensors for federal and state environmental protection agencies.  This led to a $13 million military contract to create a device that could detect nerve gas.  Awarded an additional contract from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the company now makes small lasers to destroy shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missiles.

Plus 50 Trends

A growing number of baby boomers are creating and building their own business.  The annual entrepreneurial activity report published by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation found the share of new entrepreneurs ages 55-64 grew from 14.3% in 1996 to 23.4% last year.  Part of the growth is the result of the overall aging of North America.  But experts say older people are flocking to self-employment because of a frustrating job market and the growing ease and falling cost of starting a business.

But even if they don’t get paid, “older adults want to remain connected, relevant, useful and engaged.  There’s this collective feeling of ‘we’re not done yet,’ says Marci Alboher, author of The Encore Career Handbook.

Fly In The Ointment

I agree that the Youth today will need significant help if the current unemployment rate for younger people stays high or reduces only marginally.  But at the same time both government sources and venture capitalists are currently flocking to help the Youth (18-34) with the required supply of mentors and financing.  The fly in the ointment is the same sources are pre-judging and labelling ‘older entrepreneurs’ as being too old to go back to work or startup a new business.  As a result, older entrepreneurs have become isolated and instead of working with others they are basically forced to startup and build a business all by themselves.

A Long And Winding Road To Overnight Success

There is some light at the end of the tunnel.  One of the best case studies (Profiles) that I have read recently about current senior entrepreneurs (seniorpreneurs) was written up by Kevin Chong a Vancouver based freelance Writer.  I want to present it for discussion purposes as follows:

PROFILE- Sam Koffski, Inventor, now in his mid-eighties.

For inventor Sam Koffski it took three decades and a handful of false starts for his entrepreneurial dream to come true.

It started in the 1970′s.  Koffski was the owner-operator of a construction business mainly doing stucco work on homes.  Working at sites with a small crew, Koffski found himself needing a work bench that could handle uneven ground and be used at various heights.

“All of a sudden a light came on,” Koffski says from his home in Duncan B.C.  in 1980 Koffski designed the original Workhorse, a pair of metal brackets that tighten onto pieces of lumber to reate a sawhorse that can be adjusted to various heights and widths.  He then manufactured a few prototypes with a partner, who brought one of them to the offices of Black and Decker.  The hardware giant immediately purchased Koffski’s design.

Within three years, Black and Decker sold about 130,000 units of the original workhorse in North America.  Unfortunately, Koffski’s invention didn’t make enough money to make up the costs of materials and production.  Liability insurance was another issue.  “There were ladder companies going broke because of the liabilities,” notes Koffski.  Because of those costs, Black and Decker discontinued the bracket device.

From that disappointment, Koffski, who retired from the stucco business fifteen years ago, saw room for improvement.  “I didn’t like the Black and Decker design,” he said.  “I put my effort into redesigning the product the way I knew it should have been.”  Koffski returned from the drawing board with Workhorse II.

In 1993, the Workhorse II received a “very large order” from Home Hardware in Canada, but again what could go wrong did.  Faulty manufacturing led to a defective product.  The company that Koffski partnered with went bankrupt.  In the process, he lost his patent.

It seemed as though Koffski’s dream had taken it’s last, agonizing breath.  “I hadn’t given up, but I certainly hadn’t done anything to promote it,” he said.  That’s when he received inspiration from his son, Sid.  “My son, who grew up with the Workhorse, was renovating his house.  And he used it in so many different ways.  he came to me and said, “Look you’ve got to do something with this.”  Sid’s idea was to take his father’s invention to the Dragon’s Den.  “I thought it was a dumb idea.  But he persisted.  And that’s how we got on.”

Appearing on the CBC show in the spring of 2012, Sam Koffski successfully sold the rights to the Workhorse II to Arlene Dickinson (owner of for $75,000 and a 5% royalty.  “Arlene Dickinson is wounderful,” said Koffski.

Arlene helped the inventor file a new patent for his design.  Then, with the help of his children, Koffski created a DVD demonstrating his brackets.  Arlene took the DVD to the president of Home Depot, who promptly placed an order.  Koffski’s advice to inventors is simple but hard-earned.  “Don’t give up.”

With the renamed 3D Multihorse appearing on Home Depot shelves this month, Koffski can now enjoy an active social life with his wife Lorraine and tight knit family that includes four children, nine grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild.  For this late bloomer, the workhorse’s winding road to success is more about realizing a dream than money.  Although, the octo genarian admits, “the money will make the dream a little better.”

Discussion Time

I think that in the past and it’s probably still happening the terrain for a potential or existing 50+ entrepreneur is still a long and winding rocking road.  I believe that older entrepreneurs like Sam Koffski is probably still the normal situation taking many years to develop a new product and/or service eg. (Original workhorse).  In this day and age of collaboration the 50+ entrepreneur should have the opportunity to network with a suitable business support group to develop and market a new product and/or service quicker.  In my research, I have found examples of older entrepreneurs working by themselves on a new product only to die before their product is introduced to the marketplace, if at all.  And, often the survivors of an inventor who passes on don’t have a clue about the new product and as a result the product also dies with the inventor.

Question- Knowing that older entrepreneurs have abundant wisdom to invent, produce and market a new product or service, why do you think or don’t think that there is still blantant discrimination against senior enterprises; even though the older entrepreneur has wisdom, maturity, confidence, knowledge, skills & resources?

Please leave any comments you may have below which will be much appreciated.


Over-50s Fear Outliving Their Money

Outliving their money is the biggest fear of Canadians over 50 today, according to CARP, the national organization dedicated to the needs of this group.

April Lewis, a British Columbia, CA- based representative of CARP (Canadian Association Of Retired Persons), is among the many Canadian seniors who thanks to the recent economic downturn, were never afforded the chance to “retire” reported Misty Harris of Postmedia News. 

“I did everything right; I had a Master’s degree, I worked my a___ off my whole life, and I kept rising to the top.  So I thought I was safe”, said Lewis, 61.  “Then one day, I was unceremoniously escorted out of the building after over 30 years in health care.”

“The biggest fear CARP members have is outliving our money,” said Lewis, who now works in a number of contract positions as a writer and spokesperson.

Colin Miller, CEO of the International Council on Active Aging, said the overall message is that long-term retirement planning is essential.  “We certainly aren’t prepared monetarily; we certainly aren’t prepared in terms of physical health; and we certainly aren’t prepared on a societal level,” Miller said.  That’s where increased longevity can create fear.

National Framework on Aging

Since 1998 the National Framework on Aging was developed in Canada as a voluntary guideline for government and other policy makers and service providers with meeting the needs of seniors.  The National Framework included a vision statement as outlined in a book titled, Aging in Alberta by the author, Herbert C. Northcot.  The statement is as follows: 

Canada, a society for ALL ages, promotes the well-being and contributions of older people in all aspects of life.  This vision statement refers to the needs of seniors, that is, all that is necessary to promote their well-being in ALL aspects of life, and at the same time acknowledges the many contributions that seniors make.  Five principles were stated to facilitate achievement of the overall goal articulated by the vision statement: dignity, independence, participation, fairness, and security.  These five principles envision seniors living normally and independently as participating members of society while at the same time receiving those supports and services that are necessary to maintain independence and ACTIVE involvement as long as possible.

Question- What is ACTIVE involvement for Seniors 50 plus?

Usually, the first answer to this question that pops up for most people is volunteering, and a related answer is babysitting and playing with the grand kids.  Then, there is the opportunity to participate in your local senior’s center.   The mission of a senior’s center first organized after the end of the second world war was basically a low energy place (playing cards & socializing with other people)  to counter the high unemployment rate at that time.  Today, most mature adults have valuable traits such as maturity, wisdom, skills, knowledge, contacts and resources.  As a result, these more modern traits require higher energy activities that are congruent to a more active, creative and productive pre-retirement or retirement life. eg. Lifelong Learning Centers and business and/or social entrepreneur/small business owner startup training.  Also, we need relevant mentors across the Country that could provide business support at every stage of the entrepreneurial process.  I  also believe that CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons) could collaborate with SBA (Small Business Administration) to facilitate suitable workshops and programs that would work for Seniors 50 plus.

Startup Canada Campaign

As I explained above, I strongly believe that the 50+ Demographic must be a separate category in the StartUp Canada initiative with the mission to help ALL the people regardless of age to benefit from starting their own small business.  Entrepreneurship is for everyone but we need to recognize that seniors have different expectations as compared to the Young (18-34) potential entrepreneur or small business owner.

Suzanne Grant, Delegate and Mentor for Global Startup Youth & Global Entrepreneurship has recently started a very important LinkedIn discussion group titled, Is Canada ready to be a StartUp Nation?  I am a contributing member in this group with my own focus being on the 50+ demographic.

I addressed Suzanne by saying that Startup Canada will need to collaborate more with some of the larger groups that are presently representing the 50+ demographic.  For instance, let’s make a working liaison with CARP (Canadian Association of Retired Persons).  Also, we need to bring to the 50+ Entrepreneur table the SBA (Small Business Association) and possibly the media like Moses Znaimer of ZoomerMedia Ltd.  Also, new this month premiering Oct. 7th, Conrad Black on Vision TV will be hosting a new radio program aimed at the Seniors 45 or 50 plus.  The goal is to give a crisp and literate prospective to the problems and questions that mature adults have on many subjects.

Then, Davender Gupta, Founder Startup-Academie in a response to this same group discussion said, “I definitely give a thumbs-up to encouraging more “startup 45″ and startup 55.”  

Furthermore, Davender mentions that “In my experience working with the VC community ( at least in Montreal), there is a real age bias against any tech startup founder over 35.  I can easily assume, that this is the case across the board, whether we’re talking about grants, award programs, government programs, and private angel investing.  We pull out all the stops for youth but once you’re 35 you’re deemed to be TOO OLD to participate in the startup ecosystem except as a “mentor”.  I think this is crazy. Imagination has no expiry date.”

Also, Davender says that, “we need to get “Startup 45/55″ on the map and change this perception.  The 45+ crowd has the experience to recognize opportunities, the network from which to recruit a team, the means to bootstrap, the maturity to execute and the patience to see it through to success.

In conclusion, Davender says that activating the Startup 45/55 movement would really make Canada a Startup Nation!

Personally speaking, I think that Canada will NOT be a Startup Nation it wants to be until it welcomes ALL the interested people that live in this Nation.  In my own opinion there will not be much progress just concentrating on the Young (18-35) age group.  At the same time we will need older ‘business experienced’  mentors.  Presently we basically have much younger mentors and facilitators looking after the needs of the younger entrepreneurs.

Since we all agree that entrepreneurship is for everyone, we need to include the 50+ Entrepreneur (this is where the work/business experience lies); the Immigrant Entrepreneur (bringing new skills, culture and knowledge to the table); the Military Entrepreneur (bringing decipline and very technical training skills); the Aboriginal Entrepreneur (bringing crafting knowledge and mechanical skills); and the Social Entrepreneur (bringing social good to a small business).

Finally, I think that the KEY strategy here is basically treating EACH of the above mentioned entrepreneurial groups equally and with full respect.  It is very important to be going beyound the Youth Entrepreneur focus by getting separate facilitating  organizations started for each category of entrepreneurs found existing in Canada. Then ANY potential or existing entrepreneur in all of Canada could immediately go to their own business support group for hands-on guidance and financial support, if required.

Any comments and/or suggestions for this important discussion will be much appreciated.  Thanks for reading this new post.

Joe W.