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Elder-preneurs show you are never too old to start your own business

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Many retirees look forward to putting their feet up after years of work, but some find new purpose and meaning at this stage of life by becoming elder-preneurs - entrepreneurs who begin businesses in their silver years.

Some like Ms Helen Lim, 70, who is involved in running two social enterprises, one cooperative and a cafe, do so because they are passionate about helping fellow seniors.

Others like Mr Richard Koh, 55, and Ms Audrey Lee, 54, were compelled to do so because of personal challenges.

Mr Koh was retrenched from his regional business manager job in IT last May, but did not feel "ready to retire".

Last November, he co-founded his online company 1°C, which specialises in handcrafted cold-brew coffees and cold teas.

Ms Lee was given the responsibility of caring for her mother in 2011 after the latter was struck by accelerated dementia following hip surgery.





After observing that more senior citizens were going on post-retirement holidays but were disorganised when it came to packing travel necessities, retired businessman James Lam came up with a solution.

Called the "elder pouch" and launched three months ago, the kit contains 12 useful items for older travellers.

These include a distress alarm, a fever strip, a pill box and an emergency call list.

At pharmacies, he found that there were first-aid kits, but no package was geared specifically for older travellers.

After gathering ideas for what the pouch should contain and getting a grant from social enterprise Silver Spring, he flew to China to find a factory to produce the pouch.

His contacts from the time he was doing business, importing and exporting items from China, came in handy.

The green, zippered pouch opens to reveal multiple compartments. The items inside are either sourced from overseas or made by the factory in China.

Some of the first run of 300 pouches have been given to friends for feedback.

Eventually, he hopes to sell the pouch to travel companies, especially those that cater to the elder travel market.

He is looking to price the pouch at $25, which he says is just a few dollars above its cost price.

Meanwhile, he is starting work on another project - elder-safe shoes that will help to minimise falls among the elderly.

"I always believe in making plans a reality," says Mr Lam, who is married with two adult children.

"I don't want to just learn more and upgrade my skills, but also to actually do something meaningful."




There is no stopping serial elder- preneur Helen Lim, a sprightly and cheerful 70-year old.

I really want to help seniors. I believe in doing good and in doing well.


She became an entrepreneur for the first time when she was 62 and has since gone on to co-found cafes and two other social enterprises.

The former human resource director and civil servant set up social enterprise Silver Spring in 2009, just four years after her retirement in 2005.

She had noticed that many people lost their sense of identity and self-esteem after retiring or getting retrenched.

Silver Spring helps to find re-employment for mature job-seekers.

That year, she also set up Chatters Cafe in Parkview Square near Bugis and staffed it with employees all aged 50 and above.

"It was an opportunity for Silver Spring to showcase what it did, for us to walk the talk," she says.

As she conversed with her fellow seniors, she realised many of them did not want to spend their golden years working.

Instead, they wanted to travel. The problem, however, was that they could not keep up with the pace of travel on commercial group tours and felt more tired than refreshed after their trips.

So she banded together with like- minded seniors and founded Silver Horizon Travel Co-operative in 2012 with the help of the Singapore National Co-operative Federation.

Formed in 1980, the federation aims to promote and develop cooperatives as sustainable enterprises.

Silver Horizon Travel works with tour agencies to come up with customised, senior-friendly group tour packages.

To become a member of the cooperative, people pay $50, which entitles them to a share of the cooperative, and an administrative fee of another $50. Membership is open to anyone aged 40 and older.

It has organised 45 trips to date, an average of nine trips a year. Destinations range from Johor Baru to Russia. This year, members have gone to Taiwan and Hokkaido, Japan, and there are two fully subscribed upcoming trips to Okinawa, Japan, and Vietnam later this year.

In 2012, she opened another Chatters Cafe in Ren Ci Community Hospital in Novena.

That opening also marked the end of Chatters Cafe in Parkview Square, which she closed because of rising rentals.

Even with a full plate, Ms Lim continued to be sensitive to the needs of fellow seniors.

To help those who were staying at home and waiting for time to pass, she co-founded Silver Sparkles in 2014, a social enterprise which matches senior citizens with part- time jobs.

Ms Lim, who is married with an adult son, is confident that this is not the final senior-focused project she will be involved in.

The self-confessed champion of "silver talent" says that many of them have ideas and these are birthed over cups of coffee at Chatters Cafe.

She says: "I really want to help seniors. I believe in doing good and in doing well."

Read more at http://www.straitstimes.com/lifestyle/elder-preneurs-show-you-are-never-too-old-to-start-your-own-business

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  • Guest
    LEE KWAI WAH Saturday, 13 January 2018

    Qualification : GCE 'O'' Level
    Experience : 30 years
    Job preference : Admininistrative Job
    Prefernce Sector : Government

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