More seniors than ever are starting businesses - here are their top five motivations

More seniors than ever are starting businesses – here are their top five motivations

You’re not too old to be your own boss, apparently. All over the world, there is an increase in the number of people over the age of 50 who are starting their own businesses.

In the United States, people between the ages of 55 and 64 make up the largest percentage of business founders. In Japan, people over the age of 60 account for more than a third of new entrepreneurs. In the UK, “older people” are responsible for more than a quarter of new start-ups.

In Canada, in recent years, the trend has also been moving in this direction. According to Statistics Canada, the majority of start-up business owners are between 50 and 64 years old. The latest data is shown They are now the most important age group among new entrepreneurs.

Similar trends have been seen in Australia, and it also appears that businesses started by older entrepreneurs outnumber those started by younger ones. New Zealand does not have comparable detailed data, but similar trends have been observed.

How do we explain it?

To find out more about this phenomenon, New Zealand researchers conducted 20 in-depth interviews with people who started new businesses after the age of 50.

These interviews were conducted as part of Massey University’s Maximizing Workforce Participation for Older New Zealanders programme, and these interviews suggest that older people’s motivations do not fit into the categories presented in the current studies.

The usual perception is that people are either “pushed” into entrepreneurship by segregation, age discrimination, or forced retirement, or “pushed” by prospects of business opportunity, potential profitability, and increased freedom and flexibility.

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This view is too simplistic and does not reflect the diversity of individual experiences. Motives are often very distinct, complex, and multiple. However, some themes appear more often.

Five main motives

Researchers have identified five broad “entrepreneurial trends” to describe the process of starting a first business at an older age.

Those who seize the opportunity: For this larger group of respondents, job opportunities presented themselves through different avenues, but often aligned with their background and career path.

Some created their own jobs, while others took the opportunity that was offered to them. It can be almost accidental – offering a business loan or meeting someone with complementary skills.

Those who make the difference: Members of the second largest group are distinguished by their desire to influence and contribute to society.

Starting a business was not an end in itself; Instead, they were motivated by a desire to help others, save the planet, or contribute to the greater good. Among those interviewed, a very experienced nurse wanted to provide self-help workshops for women. He was an engineer interested in developing green energy technologies.

Those who change direction: The people in this group realized that they wanted to change their work. They all held professional positions, but a combination of factors related to self-awareness, good business acumen, and the need to start a new phase in life made them wonder “if I want to keep doing this.” in the foreseeable future.”

By creating a company, they gave themselves the opportunity to use their skills and experience in new areas. Thus the theater nurse was turned into a counsellor, and the man who knew of the failure of his work and whose dismissal at the same time regained his interest in painting and became an accomplished artist at the age of seventy.

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Those who meet their needs: This group faced unsatisfactory professional situations and starting a business seemed to be the best option for generating income. Factors such as the feeling of being “going in circles”, company demands and health concerns led to their decision.

Although they never thought of being a manager themselves, starting a business, although difficult, had its rewards and offered new perspectives.

Those who invest: Members of this small group have business experience. Their main motive to start a new business was financially, relying on their skills and knowledge.

Unlike others interviewed, they did a thorough risk analysis and received professional advice before starting their business.

Encouraging entrepreneurship among the elderly

The respondents did not mention the recognized “entrepreneurial” drivers of innovation, growth and profit maximization. And many of them are motivated not only by business, but by personal well-being and altruism.

According to the researchers, the entrepreneurial trend of those above their fifties has both social and economic benefits. On the other hand, purposeful and well-conditioned work enhances personal well-being. On the other hand, for individuals, it provides a sense of self-esteem and achievement and enhances social connection.

On the other hand, society benefits from the skills and experience of older people as entrepreneurs and mentors, which helps curb anti-aging discrimination.

L’augmentation des débouchés économiques pour les personnes d’un certain âge favorise égallement la croissance économique et la croissance des entreprises, permettant du même coup un meilleur investissement dans le capital humain et point une connaissance de la main de la mixédé plusè ‘artistic work.

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It can also help offset the costs of an aging population by increasing tax revenue and reducing the benefits available to seniors.

As a society, we must, in the study authors’ conclusion, encourage and support this trend of business creation by an increasing number of older adults, because we live longer and healthier.


Jeff Berman, Managing Director of Change Partners and a Research Associate in Massey University’s Health and Aging Research Team, is the co-author of this article.

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