Too Old to Start a Business?

Dick Hansler is like many entrepreneurs. After all, he’s 88.

“I worked for GE Lighting for 42 years only to find out after retiring that the bright new light bulbs I was researching were keeping people from sleeping,” says Hansler, who helped form in 2005 to manufacture and sell healthier lighting. “We hear from customers saying they’re sleeping like babies.”

In The Coming Entrepreneurship Boom, the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation reports that from 1996 to 2007, Americans ages 55 to 64 had a much higher rate of entrepreneurial activity than 20- to 34-year-olds.

Their younger counterparts may grab the attention, but older entrepreneurs are pursuing a slew of innovative ideas. For 61-year-old Barbara Steinberg, that’s elder care financial planning.

“Being able to assure an elderly person that they can live where they choose and get the care they need is totally satisfying,” explains Steinberg, founder and CEO of BLS Eldercare Financial Solutions in Livingston, N.J.

Suzy and Tom Boerboom take a different approach. Tom and Suzy, both 64, operate Welcyon, three Upper Midwest health clubs for members ages 50 and up. A fourth will open this fall.

While the market is special, Welcyon aims for the target of every entrepreneur. “You need a concept with a crisp, clear, differentiated proposition—and Welcyon provides it,” Suzy Boerboom says. “No other health club chain is expressly designed for the needs of adults over 50.”

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