'I launched my business at 63 and couldn't be happier'
Until I launched Next-Up last year, I never really thought about people’s ages. Now I obsess about them.
What I see daily is that age is just a number. And it is up to individuals how they perceive their own age and its opportunities.
It is no longer unusual to live to 100 and we could easily be retired for longer than we worked. In the last few years, I have helped hundreds of people ‘transition’ to retirement. Next-up helps anyone over 50 who doesn’t want another mainstream job.
It can be an extremely difficult time – they really struggle with their loss of identity and networks, the dream of travelling the world can pall after a while, and they have a huge amount of experience and skills. But who wants them?
I am amused that people seem surprised I should launch a business at the age of 63 and want to work for another 20 or more years.
My financial adviser seriously struggled to understand this, but I honestly can’t think of anything worse than retirement.
I am an innovator, I get my kicks out of helping others, and am constantly thinking of ways to solve society’s problems and do something about them.
The thing that I love about this stage of life is we have the skills, contacts and experience to make things happen.
Starting this business is extremely hard and we are still piloting a dozen or more initiatives to see what works, both for the individuals and in terms of what people will pay for.
We are not yet profitable, but I know this will take time and we are in it for the long haul – that’s what age brings to a new business.
Despite this, I have never been happier or more energised and I want this for others looking for purpose in their later lives.
I absolutely love creating a new market and solving a small part of one of society’s biggest problems – what do we do with our ageing population? Research shows the impact of retirement – people are 40 per cent more likely to have clinical depression and 60 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with a physical condition.
We are in discussions with the construction industry to see how we could capture the skills of the baby boomers before they retire. Like the tech sector, they have a massive skills gap, so we want to come up with ways to encourage people to mentor, help and support the younger generation to fill that skills gap.
Last November we organised a conference with 100+ seasoned professionals and 10 young tech entrepreneurs among others (actually some of the entrepreneurs were early 40s but age is all relative!).
We got everyone working together – the older generation helping the entrepreneurs with challenges in their business, often around people issues. And the entrepreneurs opened up everyone’s minds to understand more about tech and realise that everyone can get involved in technology, no matter their age.
Now we are extending this idea to organise early evening City Meet-Ups in Leeds and Manchester later this year.
What seems ridiculous is to throw away the skills of a generation that could make a significant impact to the success of the UK economy. To me, it does not make sense that someone should be chief executive of a business or partner in a firm one day – and then, just because of age, the next day they are pottering in the garden.
Some people want this and that is fine. But an awful lot more are lost, wanting to find purpose and be needed, but not knowing where to start.
I don’t believe society is ageist, but we do need to rethink how we use the skills of an amazing generation that is fitter and healthier than ever before.