New research will seek to understand “senior entrepreneur” trend in Canada

A new CERIC-funded research study led by the Sheridan Centre for Elder Research will address the gap in knowledge about the state of senior entrepreneurship in Canada by investigating the experiences, needs and interests of individuals who have either launched or would like to start their own business after age 50. With the country’s demographic shift to an aging workforce well underway, increasing numbers of older Canadians are turning to entrepreneurship; however very little is known about them and what kind of career guidance and support they require.

In 2011, an estimated five million Canadians were 65+; that number is expected to double to reach 10.4 million by 2036. By 2051, about one in four Canadians is expected to be 65+ (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2011). A 2012 CIBC study found that individuals 50+ made up the fastest growing age group for start-ups in Canada, accounting for approximately 30% of the total number of start-ups in the country. Since 1990, the rate of entrepreneurs 50+ more than doubled, and the trend continues to rise.

While the number of older adults starting their own businesses grows, there will also be a growing need for career development professionals to better understand entrepreneurship in general as well as any unique characteristics of senior entrepreneurs in the labour market. Questions to be addressed in the research project titled “A Study on the Status of Senior Entrepreneurship in Canada: Training Implications for Career Counsellors” include:

  • Who are these older entrepreneurs?
  • How can we leverage the experience, existing networks, and perhaps different motivations and skills of senior entrepreneurs to benefit the Canadian economy?
  • What are some of the unique challenges that an older entrepreneur might face – e.g. obtaining financing, risk management, overt and covert ageism, succession planning/exit strategies?
  • What supports are available to senior entrepreneurs, and how can existing supports be improved?
  • How can older entrepreneurs support each another for mutual benefit? What are the lessons that new senior entrepreneurs can learn from those who have already established businesses after age 50+?

The study will consist of online surveys, in-depth interviews and focus groups with both established and new senior entrepreneurs to ensure a full understanding of this emerging area. Based on the research results, the Sheridan team will produce a comprehensive report that includes program and policy recommendations for key stakeholders including policy analysts, career development professionals and others who may be guiding or coaching senior entrepreneurs. The report, which will be available in both English and French, is expected to be released in early 2018.

As the face of aging and retirement in Canada continues to change, this research will result in increased knowledge about senior entrepreneurs in Canada and the factors that may help them succeed. Given the increasing impact of senior entrepreneurs, their success is expected to have a positive ripple effect on the Canadian economy. A better understanding of how we might best support them can be directly beneficial to the country’s economic growth.

The Centre for Elder Research at Sheridan College conducts innovative Lab to Life® research that enhances the quality of life of older adults. Based in Oakville, ON, the Centre undertakes “reciprocal benefits research,” a process through which both the older adult participants and the research team benefit in a meaningful way. The Centre’s research interests include: the creative and performing arts, innovative and accessible technologies, the business of aging, the experience of older immigrants, active aging physically and cognitively, health promotion and lifelong learning. The Centre is led by Pat Spadafora, a recognized pioneer in the field.

CERIC provides funding and other support to develop innovative career development resources. Individuals and organizations are welcome to submit project proposals for career counselling-related research or learning projects. This latest research follows another CERIC-supported project that explored later life career development and resulted in the release earlier this year of the Redirection: Movers, Shakers and Shifters documentary and companion guide.