The dream used to be to retire in your fifties, in order to adopt a slower pace and enjoy plenty of leisure time. Society has shifted and fifty somethings are now planning to work into their seventies and beyond. This decision is often made, not through financial necessity but through choice; many individuals thoroughly enjoy their working life and want this to continue for as long as possible. Having gained decades of useful experience, some 50+ individuals want to push their careers to the highest possible attainable level and others may just want to do something different in their later years. This is resulting in many new business start-ups created by our older generations.
Business launch activity has increased so significantly that we have now adopted new terms for “encore entrepreneurs” or “olderpreneurs” to describe individuals who have set up their own businesses in later life. The reality is that they are also making a success of it. One in six new businesses started in the UK are set up by those aged 50+ and businesses started by people over 50 have a 70% chance of surviving their first five years, compared with only a 28% survival rate for those younger than them, according to the charity PRIME. Olderpreneurs offer a balance of life and work experience, highly developed networks, prior experience of failure and learning from mistakes, with the ability to engender respect from others more easily.
Linda Walmsley, Director of recruitment search & selection business, Walmsley Wilkinson Associates classes herself as a olderpreneur. She says “I was in my mid-fifties with a successful corporate career and most of my peer group were expecting me to continue until retirement, start undertaking reduced hours or even early retirement, but I just didn’t feel the same way. I enjoyed my work but I still had the energy and desire to challenge myself further. I was passionate about working more closely with my clients and wanted to be more agile, more nimble, more bespoke than my corporate world could offer. Having now established the business, I haven’t looked back”
Not all later career individuals have the desire to go self-employed or launch a new business. People want to continue their working lives and be treated equally when it comes to accessing new opportunities and financial rewards. Stereotypes that often defined mature employees, such as possessing less flexibility, adaptability, ability to learn, ambition and pace compared with their younger colleagues are now being smashed.
Diversity in the workplace is a more recent powerful movement to ensure that everyone is valued as an individual and that inclusive working environments are achieved. UK legislation covering age, disability, race, religion, gender and sexual orientation sets minimum standards but a commitment to diversity and inclusion goes beyond the legal compliance.
A diverse workforce therefore includes contribution from our later career individuals who also have much to offer. Linda Walmsley concludes “In my opinion all employers should be championing age diversity and the value a multi-generational work-force can bring to their organisation.”