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The new adventures of older entrepreneurs

senior entrepreneur

It didn’t take the double hashtags of August 21 – #seniorcitizensday and #worldentrepreneurday – for the AARP Foundation to recognize where entrepreneurship is booming in the U.S.

America is not getting any younger. In fact, last year the U.S. Census Bureau’s national population projections forecast that by the year 2030, older people, 65 years and older, will outnumber children under age 18 for the first time in U.S. history.

The aging of America has special significance to Aliza Sir. Sir is the director of Income Security at the AARP Foundation, the country’s largest organization dedicated to issues facing Americans over the age of 50. In her talks around the country, including appearances at the Kauffman Foundation’s ESHIP Summit and Rural RISE, she seeks to connect with people in community ecosystems that support entrepreneurs.

Sir likes to point out to her audiences that they may need to revise their notions of a typical entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs you meet today are more likely to be empty nesters or grandparents than tech-savvy youngsters in a hoodie.

The new age of entrepreneurs

According to the Kauffman Indicators of Entrepreneurship, the percent of the U.S. population that starts a new business is highest in the 45 to 55 age category at .39%, with the 55 to 65 age group following closely behind at .38%. In both age groups the number of new startups trend upward. Moreover, the percent of new entrepreneurs who created a business by choice instead of necessity in the 55 to 64 age categories registers just over 88%, higher than any other age group.

Sir emphasizes that for many, entrepreneurship after age 50 feels like a necessity. “We’re seeing a wave of ‘encore entrepreneurship.’ They may face age discrimination from employers and the value of their retirement savings may have declined or never existed.”

To help older entrepreneurs connect to a network of knowledge, resources, and support, the AARP Foundation launched a nationwide entrepreneurship program called Work for Yourself@50+. “We’re not talking about people already in retirement home,” Sir noted. “We’re talking about people who need to earn money to support themselves and their families.”

“The future of work is something that we think about a lot,” Sir added. “The trend of older entrepreneurs offers amazing potential for people to leverage their experiences, work for themselves, and transform Main Street economics. It’s incredibly important to celebrate and lift up those entrepreneurs.”

Interview with Aliza Sir, director of Income Security, AARP Foundation

Watch | 1:20