It was wonderful to hear the announcement that Toyo Ito had received the Pritzker prize (the highest accolade for architecture) a couple of weeks ago. At the age of 71 the Japanese architect has finally been recognised for what, by all accounts, is an outstanding body of work that dates back over 40 years. But it is not a retrospective award, for Toyo Ito is still working and still innovating. He has had a long and illustrious career and doesn’t talk about stopping any time soon. In fact his latest design, the Taichung Metropolitan Opera House, is currently under construction, and looks set to be his most interesting and inspiring project yet.
The news that a man in his 70s (past the traditional retirement age) is still working, still being creative and still successful, is uplifting, but actually not that unusual. In the UK, the over 50 bracket are the largest group setting up new businesses on their own. Similarly, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor US Report of 2011 discovered that 15.4% of Americans aged 55-64 and 12.8% of Americans aged 45-54 run their own business, compared with 0.8% of Americans aged 18-24 and 4.9% of Americans aged 25-34.
So what is causing this explosion in what have been termed (I feel rather disparagingly) “olderpreneurs”? Is it simply that we are staying younger for longer and want to embrace that? Is it that over fifties, despite their considerable experience, are finding it more difficult to find work as employees and are choosing to stay in work by setting up on their own? Possibly it’s all down to the issues surrounding final-salary pensions? Or perhaps later in life it finally becomes possible to do exactly what you want, how you want!
I’m sure many are excited that this is the future that awaits them. I can think of two such people within my own family, working well into their sixties at their own businesses – while they find it hard, they love to work, and wouldn’t contemplate retiring. On the other hand, I’m sure there are just as many who could think of nothing worse, who are looking forward to their retirement, and who hope the days of the final-salary pension have not completely disappeared.
I’d be fascinated to know your thoughts…