Part of the America’s Entrepreneurs Special Report
(Next Avenue invited all our 2016 Influencers in Aging to write essays about the one thing they would like to change about aging. This is one of the essays.)
“You build companies the way other people bake cakes” is a compliment a fellow professor shared with me a few years back. Maybe it’s partly because I’m the daughter of an entrepreneur — the founder of a paint company (even though my dad wanted me to have a “secure job” by becoming a teacher and then a professor, which I’ve done). But I loved, and still love, the adventure of building companies.
And I think there’s blue ocean water for encore entrepreneurs entering the longevity market, which is valued at $7.6 trillion according to Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of AARP. Let me explain how I’ve come to that conclusion.
The old ways of securing our financial future are ebbing away. The new way is to become a social entrepreneur.
From Academia to Entrepreneurship
My life took a turn from the academic world when I started SeniorNet.org in l986, the first social network for seniors. In 1996, I co-founded ThirdAge Media, a marketing and media organization for boomers that was part of the CBS kiretsu of CBS Marketwatch and CBS Sportsline. After it was sold to Ancestry.com, I was on to company No. 3: Mary Furlong and Associates, where I produce the What’s Next Boomer Summit and the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit.
So I’m all about the global longevity marketplace where innovation and product and service development is coming from the Netherlands to Japan. The health innovation and technology sectors are the first and heaviest investors in this market. Companies such as Carelinx, EverSafe and Vynca are just a few to watch.
Boomer Entrepreneurs and the Longevity Marketplace
Boomers in their 50s, 60s and 70s are well suited to launching businesses serving the longevity marketplace. One reason: many of the companies needed these days serve and employ people their age — such as services for errands (Envoy), transportation (Uber, Lyft, Silver Ride) and meal delivery (Chefs for Seniors).
Jim Firman, CEO of the National Council on Aging recently spoke at the Business of Longevity Conference produced by The Economist magazine and talked about the “lack of wealth of the majority of the 50+ population.” He cited entrepreneurial companies like SilverNest, Airbnb and Uber as ways in which boomers are supplementing their incomes and nest eggs.
Social Entrepreneurship to Bolster Retirement Nest Eggs
The old ways of securing our financial future with pensions, tenure and government entitlements are ebbing away. The new way is to become a social entrepreneur and think about your income streams as a business that you need to grow and protect.
We must also become advocates. The voices for the most vulnerable in the world of aging can no longer just depend on the nonprofit world of aging services.
Creating Silver and Gold
We all need to wear two hats — the hat of our vision and entrepreneurial venture — and that of our social mission.
Entrepreneurs wake up every day thinking about their customer, their product, their service, their ecosystem and the way that they can build value. That is how they create the “silver” — the money to keep the enterprise going and growing. The “gold” is the good work they do; the light they shine on those who are most in need of support.
Together, we can build a legacy of contribution by social entrepreneurs, ensuring that we are partnering with communities and older adults to make the aging process better for all.
Mary Furlong, president and CEO of Mary Furlong & Associates, is a 2016 Next Avenue Influencer in Aging. She produces the annual What’s Next Boomer Business Summit and the Silicon Valley Boomer Venture Summit. The author of Turning Silver Into Gold, Furlong is also the founder of SeniorNet and ThirdAge Media.