It’s Time to Re-Think What Is ‘Too Old’


Did you know that according to the Harvard Business Review, older entrepreneurs have a significantly higher success rate than their youthful counterparts?

Ageism is sadly prevalent in the business world and there are many myths about the ‘unsuitability’ of older people to work or run businesses: older people are too tired and burnt out; they get sick; they don’t have the skills to cope in the modern world; they’re too stuck in their ways. The data, however, says otherwise.

“In the U.S., the U.K., Ireland, and Australia, 50+-year-olds are launching more startups than any other cohort,” shares Kerry Hannon, author of Never Too Old to Get Rich: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Starting a Business Mid-Life.

The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics reported in 2018 that people aged 65 and over are the most likely to be self-employed. Inspiring and notable older entrepreneurs include Charles Flint who founded IBM at 61; Arianna Huffington who started the Huffington Post at 54; Ray Kroc who became the founder of McDonald’s at 52 and Mary Kay Ash who began her cosmetic empire at 45.

Mandatory retirement ages are falling away in many countries, as people live longer, and most importantly, they are physically and mentally stronger due to improvements in health and fitness. The silver generation has acquired the wisdom of experience from years of professional know-how, common sense, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills, that no MBA can replace. It is downright illogical not to value this contribution. Finland and Japan are leading the way in re-thinking experience as a profitable commodity. Moreover, the digital world has been around us for a long time. Older people may not be technical whiz kids, but they have adopted technology into their daily work and home lives, from laptops to smartphones, to zoom conferencing. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks?

The benefits of those silver hairs don’t end with business or professional know-how, they extend to financial savviness. Life has already taught the valuable lessons of money management and budgeting and older people are more likely to have some savings or a financial buffer, compared to those in their twenties. They have a proven professional track record, they are more likely to exercise prudence in the financial management of the business, and they are likely to have a longer credit history, which makes them a sounder investment choice.

Moreover, 50 pluses have the distinct advantage of having access to an established network. A personal case in point, was when my daughter needed to obtain job shadowing experience. It took just one call to a business associate of mine and she was sorted. As a 20-year-old, she simply does not have those contacts. It’s not just what you know, but who you know, and the older generation has cultivated relationships over many years.

Ageism, therefore, has no logical place in the world of work, but especially not in our mindsets as entrepreneurs or business owners who may be considering whether to ‘risk’ hiring an older person.

If you think you are ‘too old' to start or carry on running a business… think again!


Janet Askew

Janet is a trainer, coach, speaker and writer who is passionate about promoting women in business and SMME development. In addition to her consulting work, she is a director of Essentially Natural and serves on the board of the Wot-If? Trust.


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  • I found the article insightful. However I believe even entrepreneurs still in their youth are capable of achieving entrepreneurial success. Experience has taught me that relationships are not built only over time; but over a mutual benefit and understanding as well.

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