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?