Photo credit: Joonas Tikkanen

Empowering older people to design their own startups

Have you read about the implications of the demographic change, the low standards of care homes, how isolated older people feel and how much the ageing population cost to the NHS and the hard working tax payers?

In the midst of all the news recently Alice Thomson’s article stood out for me on “It’s not heartless to put the elderly to work”. She refers to The New Vision for Older Workers Report for the government by Dr Ros Altmann; that more than half of people would like to be working between 65 and 70 but people at older age are struggling to find work. Half of unemployed people over-50s had been looking for a job a year, often they were rejected as the position was seen more as a young person’s job. Alice Thompson has a different, more positive view:

“We need to start viewing the elderly as an asset… They, as much as the young, are the faces of the future.”

Older people have a wealth of experience that they have accrued over their lifetime which they are keen to use and share. However they can feel alone and not sure how to start to make their idea happen.

I’m full of questions.

How could we look at the positive side of getting old? How could we make it easier for them to either find work that they enjoy or even set up their own businesses?

Mastering experience design at Hyper Island led me to look more deeply into how innovation labs might empower older people to realise and apply their skills to start their business to lead a purposeful later life.

We see the younger generations being bold, confident and ready to go ahead with their idea setting up a startup. There’s a huge opportunity for innovation labs to adapt the startup bootcamp model for older people: guiding them to find what they love and help them through training and mentorship to set up their own business. With planned and organised workshops they can immerse themselves in research, ideation and the design of new businesses that interest them. Forming local groups will help them to bring their ideas to life, learning new skills and giving a structure to their days.

Older people might have less digital skill than young entrepreneurs but they have more experience and many other skills required to build successful businesses. Building on older people’s shared passion, their experience, and loyalty; the right innovation facilitation offers promising potential to their business ideas to succeed.

The created impact for older people is clear: building confidence by transferring and gaining new skills, feeling connected to their communities by widening their networks.

The success of the service can be measured both by the number of successful businesses and also the personal growth that individuals go trough.

The benefit of setting up such services goes beyond being only an activity for older people; it enriches their lives. Research confirms that purposeful ageing increases life expectancy, better health and emotional wellbeing. Balanced individuals lead to build healthier communities and a more supportive society. According to Betty Friedan:

“Ageing is not a lost youth but a new stage of opportunity and strengths”.

Let’s start the conversation on how we can design empowering services for older people, building on their strengths to explore their business ideas and live a purposeful later life.