Find an Encore Career Serving Other Seniors
The aging population provides an abundance of business opportunities for baby boomers looking for a career switch.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was originally published in the February 2012 issue of Kiplinger's Retirement Report. To subscribe, click here.
In 2008, Jennifer Campbell was laid off from her job as a TV journalist in Ontario, Canada. She had worked for 25 years as a writer and editor and, in her mid fifties, was faced with the dilemma of figuring out her next career move.
Campbell discovered a demographically savvy way to put her writing and editing skills to use. She launched her own business writing personal memoirs (www.heritagememoirs.ca) for older adults who want to preserve their family histories. Campbell says the average age of her clients is 75. According to the Pew Research Center, 10,000 people turn 65 each day, and by 2030, 18% of the population will be 65 or older. "Business is booming," Campbell says. "I'm very busy, but I love it, and it's very satisfying work."
The aging of the population translates into a lucrative and growing market for people like Campbell. As people age, they typically require a host of new goods and services, from customized financial planning to help with home maintenance.
It won't be only young workers who benefit from newly created jobs that serve the aging population. Nancy Morrow-Howell, a professor of social work at Washington University in St. Louis, says healthy people in their fifties, sixties and seventies, whom she calls "third agers," will be attractive candidates for many of those jobs. "In my mind, we need to engage the third agers to serve the fourth agers, who are people over 85," says Morrow-Howell, editor of Productive Aging: Concepts and Challenges (Johns Hopkins University Press, $60).
Morrow-Howell says third agers have a lot to offer when it comes to serving the aging population. "Age is relevant because it is highly correlated to experience," she says. "Whether you raised a family, worked in the workforce or managed a household, you have many of the skills that will be needed in these jobs."
Just to name a few related to the aging population: geriatric care managers, reverse mortgage counselors, water aerobics instructors, legal guardians and contractors who can renovate homes so that seniors can "age in place." "You tell me what you want to do, and I'll find you work with older adults," says Linda Wiener, an online career counselor who runs the Web site Exploring Careers in Aging (www.businessandaging.com).
One of the most obvious sectors for new jobs is health care. And you won't have to become a gerontologist at age 65 to find a position. "There are certain areas in the workplace where having life experiences and having witnessed and lived through some health events yourself is useful," says Marci Alboher, vice-president at Civic Ventures (www.encore.org), a San Francisco-based think tank that focuses on baby boomers, work and social purpose.
Older workers may want to consider jobs like chronic illness coaches, who might, for example, work with diabetics to maintain their treatment plans, says Alboher. Other health care jobs are medications coaches and patient advocates.
Another area likely to see significant opportunities in coming years is caregiving. "We foresee exponential growth in the need for caregivers, and I think the reality is we're just not going to have enough younger people to fill those roles," says Roger Baumgart, chief executive officer of Home Instead Senior Care (www.homeinstead.com), an Omaha-based company that provides home care services such as meal preparation, laundry, errands, transportation, companionship and Alzheimer's care to one million seniors in 15 countries.
Baumgart says retirees looking to pick up some part-time work are excellent candidates to work as caregivers. He says that one-third of the company's 70,000 caregivers are over 65. "They have proven themselves to be reliable and knowledgeable, and they can relate to clients from a social standpoint," he says.
If you don't want to provide the care yourself, you could find entrepreneurial opportunities in caregiving. Home Instead operates as a franchise, and Baumgart says more than 60% of Home Instead's 900 franchise owners are over 55.
Although many seniors who age in place require home care services, many others eventually downsize to a smaller home. Moving is difficult at any age, but people in their eighties or nineties often need special assistance organizing estate sales, bringing donations to thrift stores, packing and finding reliable movers. Many hire professional senior move managers.
Lisbeth Wiley Chapman, 68, a public relations professional in Wellfleet, Mass., says she had been observing that the average age of Cape Cod residents was creeping upward. She wondered for a long time how she might start a business that served them. "Sixty-eight isn't very old from my point of view. I have a lot of energy and a lot of health," Chapman says. "I can be of great assistance to people over 80 whose children may not be around."
After a friend sent her a newspaper article about senior move managers, Chapman decided to attend a conference of the National Association of Senior Move Managers and took some training courses. Last June, Chapman utilized her public relations experience to begin marketing herself as a senior move manager. Her company, Extra Daughters (www.extradaughters.com), offers services such as decluttering, space planning, packing and unpacking. Chapman says she's taken on only a handful of clients, but she is confident there will be a growing need for senior move managers. "It's clear to me that this business will get rolling," she says.
Exploring the Opportunities
You may not even have to change careers to work with older adults, Wiener says. Personal trainers, yoga instructors and nutritionists can all get additional training that qualifies them to work specifically with older clients. Similarly, she says, lawyers, psychologists and other professionals might consider shifting their practices to cater to the older adult market. For instance, a nurse or social worker could consider becoming a geriatric care manager. Many professions offer certifications to serve older adults.
Other aging-related encore jobs don't require additional training. For example, if you worked for many years as a high school teacher, consider teaching lifelong learning classes. If you are a retired carpenter, you could start a handyman business aimed at older homeowners.
To help figure out suitable work that is related to aging, check out Wiener's workbook entitled Exploring Careers in Aging ($22). The workbook provides activities to help people find their niche. Also, look at her Web site, which lists 101 careers in aging.
Alboher says you could look at an encore career as a chance to explore something new or turn a hobby into an income stream. For example, if you spent your career in finance, but are a talented saxophone player, you might be able to find work playing music at senior centers or assisted-living facilities. Or if you love animals and want to get more exercise, you could market dog-walking services to older pet owners in your neighborhood. "You may have chosen your career 30 years ago," she says. "Pay attention to what interests you now."
You could seek work at an established company, but if you're entrepreneurial, consider going out on your own, as Campbell did with her memoir-writing business. Campbell encourages other first-time business owners to take advantage of resources provided by local governments and organizations such as SCORE (www.score.org), a nonprofit organization that guides entrepreneurs.
Before Campbell began her business, she enrolled in a local program that helps aspiring entrepreneurs draft business plans and launch companies. "I knew I had a good idea and that I'd love the work, but I didn't really understand all that goes into being a small business owner," she says.
Campbell says she figured her potential market -- aging baby boomers who want to preserve their family histories -- was large, but she didn't know how much to charge. So she conducted a survey of family and friends to get an idea of how much people would be willing to pay someone to write their memoir. To get help with marketing, Campbell bartered her writing services with a marketing coach.