Seniorpreneurs and encore careers breaking stereotypes about the economic burden of older people

While there have been improvements in our understanding of an ageing society and the opportunities it presents, popular myths remain about older people being a burden on the economy and lacking creative ideas.

We have been researching trends in ageing to set the scene for a new Ageing Strategy for the Local Government Association (SA). In considering the economics of ageing there is a growing awareness of the economic value of seniorpreneurs and assisting older people to plan for an encore to their career.

Despite the perception of entrepreneurial activity and high risk start-ups being an endeavour for young people, we know that people over 55 are starting businesses at greater rates than those in their 20s and 30s. Research by Swinburne University of Technology and Queensland University of Technology found that seniorpreneurs account for about a third of all new firms in Australia and are our fastest-growing segment of entrepreneur. Their success is tied to access to capital, greater work and life experience, extended personal networks and better skill in controlling risk.

A value for the economic contribution of older people is something that the State Economic Development Board is recognising. At a recent symposium, South Australian Economic Development Board chair Raymond Spencer suggested that Governments could play a bigger role in encouraging people to think about their encore career. Helping older people consider their contribution after traditional retirement can create export opportunities and job-generating projects for the State, while also keeping older people active and connected, thereby enhancing their quality of life.

While we know that the contribution of older people to our communities is far more than economic, we see breaking the stereotype about the economic burden of older people as an important step in creating a society that respects people of all ages and harnesses the different contribution economic or otherwise – each generation is making.