mauryWhile most people think of July as the month for family vacations, outdoor barbecues or investing in a better air conditioning unit my mind is trying to figure out Medicare enrollment forms.  Yes, this is the month I turn 65. Research tells me that I am just one of 10,000 people that turn 65 every day in the United States.  So much for feeling unique! But while I am spending my time trying to figure out the difference between part A and Part B, many other seniors have decided to take on the entrepreneur mindset. They are finding inspiration to come up with new ideas to solve heretofore irascible problems and forging never before seen products we soon won’t be able to live without.

Yes, I said seniors.  Contrary to popular perception, entrepreneurship is not exclusively  for the young-hip-techie-nerd-cute mad scientist/garage inventors.   For example, last year business start-ups by senior citizens accounted for nearly one-quarter of all new businesses. In fact. senior Americans start new businesses at a higher rate than those in their twenties and thirties.  This has been true in every single year from 1996 to 2013. HOLY BABY BOOMER! The media even has a name for these rejuvenated wonders: Encore Entrepreneurs.  The 60s are the new 20s as seniors are thinking recklessly with abandon, bless their gray-haired heads, about what they want to solve and what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

It was the great philosopher Linus van Pelt in the Charlie Brown comic strip who said, “There is no heavier burden than a great potential.”  Seniors have come to realize that they have a lot of residual and revived potential, due in large part to receiving outstanding educations and living full lives, remaining healthy and being able to give something back.  And they are living in your town; maybe just over your backyard fence in that well kept little home with the picket fence.  The practice of trying to relocate companies from out of state with tempting incentives will always be a part of economic development, but the senior with his or her lights sill on at 2 a.m. may actually prove to be a better bet.  At least have a chat with them —  it’ll be a kick in the pants no matter what.

Or do even more than that. Many communities have “shovel ready” programs that address and promote major permitting issues, provide proper zoning in advance and invest in infrastructure prior to a business checking out your town.  Consider developing and promoting a “Shingle Ready” program that make it easier for seniors and other entrepreneurs to hang a shingle and start their own business.

“Shingle Ready” programs can ease the burden of permitting and licensing for start-ups and streamline the entire process.  They can provide valuable resources in the form of incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces, all of which increase civic engagement and connectivity of folks. Shingle ready programs can develop and maintain a network of responsive mentors in the public and private sector that encourage inter-generational and interconnected ecosystems where entrepreneurs of different ages can interact and learn.

Let’s ensure that we provide all of our local entrepreneurs from nine to 90 with the comparable tools, opportunities, incentives and resources that we offer to out of state businesses to help them get traction and grow.   After all, entrepreneurs are people, too!  Let’s especially support and celebrate  our Encore Entrepreneurs who have done so much for all of our communities over their decades of productive lives and will not only create more jobs but also inspire other juniors and  seniors to achieve new goals and prosper.

Now, back to the Medicare form.  If only I could invent a simpler one.

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