Recoding a Longevity Society: Next Decade Enterprisers.

Working in later life with continuity and flexibility

If current trends continue, more people will be working longer in their later life than previous generations. For the sake of establishing a benchmark, for those who are over age 55, this has increasingly been a reality for at least the last ten years. Well before that though, I have had a front row seat in the career and talent development field working with people in transition, with a particular focus on entrepreneurship.

Through the hundreds of advisory conversations I have had on later life career options, the most common reason for coming to a decision to work longer stems from a combination of need and desire. Phrases like “I’m too young to retire” or “I can’t afford to retire” usually form a dovetail in prompting a discussion. But framing this around the concept of retirement as we have known it until recently is no longer the true focal point of the dovetail.

In a new, more relevant point of reference, the pragmatic question is – how am I going to plan and finance my longevity?  If we assume the promise of greater longevity endures and the prospect of working later in life increases, our relationship to work – what we do & how we engage in it – will become constantly regenerative in process and episodic in nature.

Considering good health sustains – if the intent (in your 60’s, 70’s or yes, even 80’s), is to stay engaged socially and/or to supplement later life income streams; then working in later life with continuity and flexibility, will likely be out of a sense of purpose. The design will be a portfolio of options that plug and play, in synergy with other parts of your life.

Entrepreneurship – buying or starting a business, consulting or short-term project work may be some choices in that portfolio. Though, with all its hype and publicity, entrepreneurship may be a loaded word, a stretch for many who may not see themselves as the “entrepreneurial type”. By the traditional inference of the word, entrepreneurship may be over-sensationalized.

Enter – the curious, creative and collaborative mind-set of an Enterpriser

artist painting


As I wrote in my March 12th  guest post for Aging Matters Blog at Sheridan Centre for Elder Research: “the notion that suggests that legions of people over age 50 are breaking free to start and run a business…is not all it will turn out to be.” And, “while entrepreneurial activity may have increased in this over 50 age group, the overall self-employment rate in Canada over the last several years has stayed constant at around 15.5 percent.

For the next wave of people, those moving on in the middle of the aging narrative, generation X, now entering their 50’s, not to mention the millennials who will be turning 40 by 2020, the potential of living and working longer will be more like a meandering steeplechase. To extend a metaphor as I am want to do – a longer career racecourse will now require more allowance for smarter pace setting, anticipated ground shifting and more poise in the saddle.

Recoding a longevity society: over the next decade, within the subject area of work and longevity, we will need to recode our traditional employment systems, not only to keep up with rapid changes in the market economy but also to respond to increasing social needs of a human service economy. There will be more need for social enterprisers at the same time as a renaissance for micro businesses, networked alliances & independent wide achievers like da Vinci, who learn to re-apply their skills to where the work meets the social need.


Photograph – Creative enterpriser, Artist in Padua

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