At a time when health systems the world over are grappling with a higher proportion of older people in the face of demographic change and increasing costs, baby boomers are stepping in to fill some of the gaps.  Most health systems strive for holistic person centred care, which also focuses on the prevention of illness.  That means thinking about factors such as loneliness and the connection the elderly feel with their immediate communities.  Some baby boomers are seeking to provide this connection by taking up niche small business opportunities – something many of them say is a ‘calling’ as much as a job.

Christine Henck, who is 62 years old herself, is one such example.  She has become a licensed massage therapist and runs a small practice out of her home in the United States.  Her clientele is mainly people in their 60s, 70s and 80s, and she also makes house calls.

She has worked in commercial property management and also spent over ten years working as a stay-at-home mom.  However, she says that her current occupation – something she retrained to do – is more of a calling than a career step, commenting that:

 “I don’t see my clients as old…I am in my last third of life now, too. It’s making this moment better for me. I am experiencing for myself, for the first time, what 60 to 90 is going to be like.”

She is also making life better for those she cares for, talks to and helps to relax.  Another example is Judi Bonilla, 56, who was made redundant from a job as a logistics subcontractor.  She decided that she enjoyed working with older people, and in May 2012 she founded her charitable business We Get Around.  She teaches people from 65 to 91 how to use public transportation and organizing half-day outings using primarily the bus and trolley in San Diego.

It was a good business plan because thousands of elderly people stop driving every year but still need to get around.  She can provide a service to help them do so, as well as still feel a connection with their communities and others.  She saw that she had the skills to make a difference in the lives of others through a business idea and she took it up. 

I personally also recently spoke to a very talented young hairdresser who said that, once she finishes travelling overseas, she would like to set up a ‘travelling salon’ as her own business.  She also sees this idea as a ‘calling’ as much as a business.  She feels that visiting and talking to those who can’t leave their homes for whatever reason is a service to them and to the community.  What a great idea.

The aging population is spurring many other new fields and job openings too.  They include senior fitness trainers, dieticians and nutritionists, personal assistants, handymen, and drivers and caterers who prepare meals for people unable to leave their homes – not to mention retirement village developments. 

If the people who choose to perform these roles have the same perspective as Judi and Christine such services become examples of people in our communities reaching out to others in our community who have a need to remain connected.  If we are all increasingly aware of the elderly in our communities, this will also go some way to solving the healthcare problem government faces.  Happy connected people are more likely to be healthy people.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...