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William K. Zinke

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Presidential Candidates Miss the Mark

Posted: 10/24/2012 9:00 pm

If you've watched the presidential debates, you may have noticed what I've seen. There is no mention about older Americans, except in the context of discussing the entitlement programs. We have 78 million Baby Boomers in the U.S., over one quarter of the total U.S. population, and an estimated 40 million more who are older than Baby Boomers.

This population segment votes more often than their younger counterparts. Based upon U.S. Census Bureau statistics, 21.7% of people 18-35, 51.1% of people 45-64 and 58.9% of people 65 and older voted in the national elections in 2010.

We know that millions of these Baby Boomers are unemployed, have experienced a substantial diminution in their financial resources and are on food stamps. Has anyone heard the candidates talk about programs that would enable people 55 and older to remain productively engaged or to attend training programs that will enable them to do so?

I can legitimately raise these questions because I formed a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, the Center for Productive Longevity (CPL), whose mission is to stimulate the substantially increased engagement of people 55 and older in productive activities where they are qualified and ready to do so. This year, we organized four meetings in different parts of the U.S. titled "Spotlight on Entrepreneurship Opportunities for Baby Boomers 50 and Older". We reduced the age to 50 because the AARP is a sponsor, and 50 is their threshold membership age. Another sponsor is the National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), which represents schools with courses and programs on entrepreneurship. The purpose of these meetings, which have attracted hundreds of participants, has been to stimulate an increased awareness and understanding about the benefits and opportunities of creating a new business.

We have a large and growing talent pool of people 55 and older with experience, expertise, seasoned judgment and proven performance (we have developed the acronym of EESP) who want to remain productively engaged. According to an AARP survey of Baby Boomers conducted in 2011, 80% indicate their intent to continue working after leaving regular career jobs (more than half on a part-time basis). Why don't the candidates have some ideas about how to engage this large and growing talent pool in new-business creation?

The benefits include being your own boss and marching to your own drummer, rather than complying with company policies and procedures; being productively engaged instead of sitting on the sidelines and enhancing self-worth by continuing to add value. Why have the candidates not reached out to these people? One or both of them could have attracted more votes -- and indicated recognition that there is an aging population that wants to do more than rely upon the entitlement programs.

It's like the story about the fellow walking in the graveyard who muses: "I know there are people down there, but nobody's listening."

 

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