Silver Starters chooses the most promising 50+ start-up

Silver Starters chooses the most promising 50+ start-up

The final of Silver Starters took place on the 25th of March. Silver Starters is a free, Dutch  learning program that Leyden Academy and Aegon have set up for people over 50 who want to start their own company. No fewer than 83 enthusiastic participants completed the program and were inspired by the modules, lectures by experts and guidance by coaches. Eventually, five participants reached the final and gave an inspiring pitch, after which an expert jury chose the most promising idea and the digitally present audience also chose a winner. Both winners were awarded a prize package.

The winning ideas
The expert jury, consisting of Tineke Abma (director of Leyden Academy), Hendrik Halbe (CEO Unknown Group), Nadine Klokke (CEO Knab) and Arjan in ‘t Veld (Bureau Vijftig), was impressed by all the finalists but ultimately chose the idea for a lung function center of the 57-year-old Karin Lammering. Karin wants to make advanced lung function research accessible and affordable. Of course, especially given the current coronavirus, that is good news for people with lung problems, but also for general practitioners, practice assistants, sports doctors, companies, etc. Not only does the jury find her plan well thought out, they are also impressed by Karin’s thoroughness, who has already quit her job. “I believe in my idea and go for it with all my heart and passion,” says Karin. 55-year-old Willy de Heer became the convincing audience winner. With the help of a serious learning game she wants to help people understand each other and thus bring about behavioral change. This could include children who learn difficult or easy, autism, ADHD, depression or discrimination. According to Willy, you can help someone better if you understand him or her better. Click here to read the interview with Willy de Heer.

Participant perspective
The program provided the participants with tools to take a closer look at their idea, adapt it if necessary and convert it into their own company. “We also see a social benefit; participants feel more active, they are better prepared for their future and their self-confidence has increased ”, says program leader Jolanda Lindenberg. The enthusiastic responses show that the participants really appreciate Silver Starters: “The Silver Starters program was a great discovery. Acquiring knowledge and looking for opportunities at my own pace. It taught me to make a choice and to focus. This is partly thanks to valuable conversations with fellow participants and an expert coach.” “Silver Starters has made me realize that I have to focus primarily on the customer’s problem and not on my solution!”

From idea to company
Older entrepreneurs are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs, not only in the Netherlands but also internationally. Despite this, there are hardly any start-up programs aimed at that target group. Leyden Academy, Aegon and Hands on Innovation therefore developed the free learning program Silver Starters. During the process, the participants gained insight into customer needs and wishes, revenue models, marketing and prototyping, and worked towards independent entrepreneurship with the help of a coach.

Leyden Academy and partners hope to organise Silver Starters again in 2022.

Willy de Heer: Getting serious with a VR learning game

Willy de Heer: Getting serious with a VR learning game

Participant Willy de Heer talks about her experiences so far with the 2021 edition of Silver Starters, the free learning program initiated by Leyden Academy and Aegon designed to help people aged 50-plus on the road to launching their own businesses.

Willy de Heer (56) has a background in healthcare, education, and the public sector. Her business idea is to offer a VR game to help people understand each other and encourage behavioral change.

How are things going so far?
Willy: We have identified the company that will build the actual product for us. We will be using virtual reality (VR) technology, and our product concept is new for them, so we are working in close cooperation. It is a step-by-step process as everything must be done properly. I divide my time between our company and the Silver Starters course. It’s hard work but also a lot of fun. It has confirmed that I was already familiar with some of the skills and methods essential for entrepreneurship, but lack in other areas.

I am learning new things such as the Business Model Canvas. This a tool to chart and visualize all the building blocks you need for your business, including customers, route to market, the value proposition, cost structure and revenue streams.

The event to mark the mid-point of the Silver Starters program was inspiring as we got to hear examples from other companies. One of the speakers was Oskar Barendse, a co-founder of Knab, Aegon’s online bank in the Netherlands.

The great thing is you are never totally on your own in Silver Starters. Each participant is assigned to a small group with a mentor. The group I am in is quite interesting, we come from the same sort of backgrounds. One member of the group has already been an entrepreneur and we are learning a lot from each other.

How are you coping with the challenge of focusing your idea to create a marketable product?
Willy: My idea has certainly become more concrete. During the course you learn that you have to adapt your concept to meet the specific needs in your market. A good idea is not enough, its needs to be tailored to your market. Therefore, we will be testing our pilot at various educational institutions in the Netherlands to make sure we are on the right track.

The pandemic certainly isn’t helpful, however is does give us ample time to start identifying future markets. As we are convinced that our company Serious Learning Games® will be able to roll out this concept/product not only in the educational market, but in other markets as well.

What about the challenge of attracting customers and financiers?
Willy: We are finalizing our first scenario. This will be the script the actors use when we film the game. Subsequently the film will be edited to provide the player with an actual game experience. We are banking on this pilot to really help potential customers visualize how our product works and the benefits it offers.

It is quite a step forward to write an entire scenario for such a VR game. It requires lots of details. There has to be a learning goal, but also a game goal and it shouldn’t be too obvious. You have to explain why something is good and why not. You have to build up a bit of tension and also effects so that the player feels he can make a choice and reach new levels.

We are now paying for everything by ourselves. We participated in a challenge organized by the Dutch Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW), but unfortunately were not selected for the next phase. We will be reaching out to potential investors when we have accomplished “proof of concept” after the testing phase of the pilot.

What do you want to learn from the Silver Starters program?
Willy: I really want to absorb all the great materials and learnings, whether that is discussing the Business Model Canvas or the pitch. Secretly, I am hoping that I will be allowed to participate in the challenge to pitch to the jury in the final. That would be really cool.

My business partner participated in Silver Starters last year. She was very enthusiastic about Start Up Plus, as the program was called last year. She advised me to participate and I am glad I did. I now understand what she was talking about earlier. The terminology makes sense now!

The program is well designed, there is a lot to do and the digital aspect is not necessarily difficult. It is a real shame though that you can’t meet up with the other participants and the mentors in person.

What advice would you give other starting entrepreneurs?
Willy: I would definitely recommend following the Silver Starters course if you are a bit older, it is really worthwhile. The mentor group also really works, if one person sometimes has a dip, the other can offer support. Making use of the Creating a Business Model Canvas is a great starting point. As well as the valuable insights on doing interviews and pitching. Are they waiting for your product and how? This is how you test your assumptions about potential customers. These are all points to be considered and answered before you take the plunge and go out there!

Interview by Arthur van Ree (Aegon). Photo credit: VR googles by JESHOOTS.COM 

Coping with stress through mindfulness

Coping with stress through mindfulness

We all know that exercise, healthy eating, sleep and socializing are important when it comes to vitality, but so is stress. Ageing comes with the necessary challenges. And now with the prevailing corona virus even more so. Do older people benefit from mindfulness techniques to deal with stress? Can it make them more resilient?

Mindfulness course and research
These questions prompted Berit Lewis to research the resilience of older people and to teach them coping strategies when it comes to stress. Would you like to learn more about mindfulness and dealing with stress? This is possible via the free course ‘Thriving life’ that Berit offers in the safety of your own home (online) for a small group. The course will be based on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction, the gold standard of mindfulness courses.

Specifications
Age: 55+
Time frame: eight Wednesdays from 10.00-11.30, as of 17 March 2021
Language: English
Costs: free
Experience: not necessary, but some digital skills (online course via Zoom)

More information
Check the website for more information or to sign up, or contact Berit Lewis: tel. 06-54202862, info@thrivinglife.eu. Click here for the flyer.

The course and research is in collaboration with Leyden Academy and is part of the Master Vitality and Ageing at Leiden University.

The story of David and others on platform We & corona

The story of David and others on platform We & corona

On the online platform Wij & corona (‘We & corona’), we collect and publish the stories of older people and their experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March 2020, we have shared over 300 personal stories, from the Netherlands and abroad. Below, please read the story of David Stott (61), Emeritus Professor of Molecular Immunology from Glasgow, Scotland. 

Moments of happiness
Luckily we are doing fine. With Shiona, my wife, our son Alastair and dog Bobo I have good company in our house in the north of Glasgow. We enjoy the beautiful local countryside for walks, running and cycling. We are very fortunate to have some nice options close to home.

Zoom instead of face-to-face
I do miss meeting up with my close family who live elsewhere – particularly our daughter who lives in the North of England and my mother on the other side of Glasgow. Also the restrictions in meeting up with our friends are tough. We can see one other person from our locality outside, for example to do a socially distanced walk. Zoom meetings do help us keep in contact but are a weak substitute for face-face contact.

Corona is everywhere
Shiona’s dad died of Covid in a care home in November 2020. He had severe dementia and was struggling, so his passing away was not unexpected. Our daughter Katy had corona at Christmas and had to self-isolate but apart from reduced exercise tolerance she is doing fine. The bug has been very widespread and so most families now have direct experience.

Out of retirement
I’ve come out of retirement for two days a week to do ward work in the Department of Medicine for the Elderly at Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I am glad I can do a bit to help. Things are not too bad in hospitals in Glasgow at present, I can say. However we still have around 150 Covid in-patients in our hospital. It was worse in October and November, when we had a lot of deaths. We are hoping that vaccine roll-out will start to take effect by the end of February. I’ve had my first dose.

Reasonable measures
The current measures that the Scottish government are taking, in terms of lock-down and restriction of social interaction, I feel are reasonable. However the relaxation of restrictions in July last year was premature, and consequently a further wave of infection was inevitable. In addition, the approach to testing has been weak, and the UK has missed the opportunity that it had between the first and second waves last Summer to set up an effective test, trace and isolate system.

Great hope
The biggest difference between the two Covid waves is in the increased infectivity of the new UK variant. As well as the national statistics, I am personally aware of many more people who have caught the virus. However the starting up of the vaccination program gives great hope that we can get things back under control.

Extraordinary efforts
I am impressed by how communities have pulled together to support their vulnerable people, and the extraordinary efforts of healthcare workers in care homes and hospitals, and the mutual support that is being provided within health care teams. In this time of great difficulty and uncertainty, this has been a tremendous positive.

Over 300 stories on Dutch story platform ‘Wij & corona’

Over 300 stories on Dutch story platform ‘Wij & corona’

On the last day of 2020, the 300th story was published on Wij & corona (translated into We & corona). On this Dutch website, we share the experiences of older people during these trying corona times. In this way, we provide a platform for the voice of older people and support and inspire each other! For example, Willem (71) explains how he tries to stay fit at home and Maarten (77), who is a heart patient and must be extra careful.

Very diverse experiences
At the end of March 2020, Leyden Academy and the GetOud foundation started Wij & corona, to offer older people – who are relatively hard hit by the virus and the corona measures – a platform to share their experiences. We could not have imagined then that the pandemic would last this long and that more than 300 people would entrust their personal stories to us. We shared the experiences of elderly people from all over the country and from all walks of life: from a hermit to a bon vivant, from an elderly football supporter to a retired healthcare CEO. We also published stories of care givers, which give an insight into the raw reality of COVID-19.

In search of more (international) stories
Thanks to our collaboration with HelpAge International, ILC Japan, and the Leyden Academy international network, we have also been able to give an impression of how older people in other parts of the world experience the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the stories from Ume (88) from Japan, geriatric researcher Raúl from Mexico, or Klavdiya (79) from the Ukraine.

As long as this virus continues to dominate our daily lives, we will continue to collect and publish these stories. Do you have suggestions for people we can interview or do you want to share your own story, please send an email to Yvonne Koemans.

Special thanks to the funds that help(ed) to make this initiative possible: Jo Visser Fonds, Fonds Sluyterman van Loo, RCOAK Foundation and Fonds 1818.

Silver Starters helps people over 50 on their way to their own company

Silver Starters helps people over 50 on their way to their own company

After a successful first edition in 2019, almost one hundred participants (ranging from 50 to 74 years) started on 14 January 2021 with the free learning program Silver Starters, which was developed by Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing and Aegon. Over the course of twelve weeks, the participants will lay the foundation for converting their idea into their own company through online learning and coaching.

Online kick-off
During the online kick-off, program leaders Dr. Jolanda Lindenberg (Leyden Academy) and Mike Mansfield (Aegon) spoke about the initiators and the realization of Silver Starters. Wendy Woelders discussed the curriculum and what people can expect during the twelve weeks of online learning and coaching. The winner of the 2019 program, 83-year-old Han van Doorn, also spoke: “The advantage of this course is that it is online and that you can do it at your own pace in and your own place. During the course I learned about revenue models and marketing, among other things. This course is one of the best I have done. ” Van Doorn ended his story with the following piece of advice: “Everyone should ask themselves the question: What do I want to become after my retirement!”

Corporate social responsibility
“We have received a surprising number of applications from social entrepreneurship and around the theme of sustainability,” says Lindenberg. “That is why we pay extra attention in the program to setting up a non-profit organization.” Like the idea of ​​Marian Wezenbeek: “I think it would be nice if I could play a role in bringing seniors and starters together, with the aim of creating a nice home for both. In addition to the financial advantage for the elderly who offer housing, it reduces the pressure on the housing shortage for students and starters, and it can be nice for the elderly to have company.”

Diversity of ideas
In addition, there are ideas to recycle waste and make new products from it and to change interiors by using what is already in the house and what comes from thrift stores. Or of a completely different order: a serious game that helps people to understand each other better and that encourages behavioural change. Lindenberg: “It is inspiring to see the diversity of ideas and the enthusiasm of the participants. Just like the participants, the coaches and organizers are looking forward to this edition of Silver Starters.”

Never too old to be an entrepreneur
Many over-50s have the idea of ​​starting their own business one day, but can use a helping hand to actually do so. Silver Starters wants to help them realize their dream. In eight modules, participants learn the mindset and skills needed to start their own business and explore whether an idea is viable. Topics covered include customer needs, revenue models, marketing, prototyping and pitching.

The Silver Starters program was developed by Leyden Academy on Vitality and Aging and Aegon, and is also organized by partners in Italy, Poland and Portugal. More information can be found at silverstarters.org. Do you have questions about Silver Starters? Please contact Ineke Vlek at netherlands@silverstarters.org.

How do Dutch older adults cope with COVID-19?

How do Dutch older adults cope with COVID-19?

Globally and in The Netherlands, mitigation measures during the COVID-19 pandemic have focused on protecting older adults. Earlier disaster studies have shown the importance of including older peoples’ voices to prevent secondary stressors, yet these voices have received little attention during this pandemic. In April 2020, researchers of Leyden Academy explored how Dutch older adults view this crisis and cope with measures to contribute to our understanding of coping of older adults in general and during disaster situations more specifically. We performed a qualitative study using semi-structured telephone interviews with 59 diverse older adults aged 54 to 95, throughout the Netherlands.

Coping strategies
The researchers conclude that older adults in the Netherlands typify this crisis as ungraspable, disrupting their daily and social lives. Despite filling their lives with activities, they experience loss or lack of purpose. They try to follow measures to decrease infection risk and gain control, and use problem- and emotion-focused coping strategies. Emotion-focused strategies used were interpreting their personal vulnerability, self-enhancing comparisons, acceptance, and distraction. In the latter two strategies, the temporary nature of measures was emphasized.

Emphasis on duration
Older adults describe this crisis consistently with earlier findings from disaster studies. They use known coping strategies, but emphasize the duration in relation to their expectation of temporality. This underscores a dynamic, processual approach towards coping that incorporates temporal dimensions such as duration and order. Our findings stress the importance of acknowledging heterogeneity among older adults and adjusting communication about mitigation measures to decrease insecurity and increase resonance. This may make COVID-19 mitigation measures more manageable and age-responsible and allow older adults to resume their lives.

The article ‘Coping of Older Adults in Times of Covid-19: Considerations of Temporality Among Dutch Older Adults’ by Miriam Verhage, Lucia Thielman, Lieke de Kock, and Jolanda Lindenberg was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Social Sciences in January 2021.

For more information, please contact Jolanda Lindenberg.

Successful Vitality Club can be set up in any neighborhood

Successful Vitality Club can be set up in any neighborhood

Leiden, The Netherlands, 17 December 2020 – In the Vitality Club, older neighbors exercise together and coach each other. A successful approach: the participants keep coming back and feel physically and mentally healthier. But can you help set up these kinds of clubs in every neighborhood, and let them go once the group is on its own two feet? Research from Leyden Academy on Vitality and Aging shows that this is possible. The researchers publish their findings in the December issue of the scientific journal Preventive Medicine Reports.

Three exercise clubs set up
Previous research found that the Vitality Club is an effective and promising intervention: after all, it is relatively cheap (no professionals involved) and scalable (it should be possible in every neighborhood). The first exercise club that was investigated in small village of Ulft, was founded by the elderly themselves. But can you, as a policymaker or care and welfare professional, help set up a Vitality Club yourself? As an experiment, researchers from Leyden Academy have set up Vitality Clubs in three neighborhoods in the city of Leiden and guided them in the set-up phase: in Leiden Noord (since October 2016), the Professoren- en Burgemeesterswijk (August 2017) and Stevenshof (November 2017). The researchers followed the three clubs, described how they were set up, and which elements work and which do not.

On its own two feet
Three fully independent Vitality Clubs are now running in Leiden’s neighborhoods, where dozens of elderly people coach each other every weekday and exercise together. In this study, too, the participants’ fitness appears to have improved and they indicate that they experience a higher quality of life. The researchers’ investment in guiding these Vitality Clubs in the initial phase was relatively small: 81 to 187 hours for start-up support, and an average of 170 euros for sports equipment. After 114 to 263 days, the group was on its own two feet.

Huge potential
According to David van Bodegom, researcher at Leyden Academy and professor of Vitality at the Leiden University Medical Center, the Vitality Clubs offer a huge potential for society: “Sufficient exercise is important, especially for older people, given the risk of conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure and diabetes. Yet few people in the Netherlands manage this active lifestyle. Our previous finding that participants of the Vitality Club are able to keep exercising together, was great news. But we, as a society, cannot afford to sit back and wait for these clubs to be set up spontaneously. We believe every neighborhood in the Netherlands should have a Vitality Club. Our research aimed to see if we can lend the clubs a hand – and let them go as soon as they are viable. That turns out to work well.”

About the Vitality Club
The Vitality Club is an exercise club for and by seniors. Participants exercise outside together on weekdays, with training provided by peer coaches: people from their own group who voluntarily act as a trainer. Participants do not have a subscription, they join when they feel like it. There are now 17 Vitality Clubs active in the Netherlands.

The article Self-organizing peer coach groups to increase daily physical activity in community dwelling older adults by Paul van de Vijver, Frank Schalkwijk, Mattijs Numans, Joris Slaets, and David van Bodegom is published in December 2020 in scientific journal Preventive Medicine Reports.

For more information, please contact Niels Bartels, Manager Communications, via email.

Congratulations to the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance

Congratulations to the International Longevity Centre Global Alliance

The International Longevity Centre Global Alliance is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With 16 member countries across all continents, the ILC Global Alliance is a multinational consortium with a mission to help societies across the world to address longevity and population ageing in positive and productive ways.

The ILC Alliance currently includes centres in the United States of America, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, the Dominican Republic, India, South Africa, Argentina, The Netherlands, Israel, Singapore, Czech Republic, Brazil, China, Australia and Canada.

ILC Netherlands (ILC-NL) was established in 2006, and is an independent movement of people who aim to put aging high on the social and political agenda. The goal is to activate people in thinking about active and healthy aging in an early stage by organizing debates, media attention, and sharing experiences and expertise, both nationally and internationally. ILC-NL is committed to the independence state of being of the elderly, requiring tailored conditions, skills and a good living environment. The vitality of the elderly should be promoted while vulnerability and dependency are postponed as long as possible. Also it is important to remain active as an employee, volunteer or entrepreneur without being discriminated because of age.

Find out more about the Global Alliance and ILC-NL.

How do older people in Japan experience the COVID-19 pandemic?

How do older people in Japan experience the COVID-19 pandemic?

This spring, Japan was also confronted by a severe COVID-19 outbreak. After a second peak in the summer, the virus now seems well contained after the implementation of some strict measures. The national character can attribute to this: the Japanese are used to wearing face masks, naturally keep some more distance and faithfully follow advice on working from home and avoiding rush hour. How do older people in Japan experience this time? After translating the stories of Dutch older people earlier this year, the International Longevity Centre (ILC) Japan has now shared a series of personal stories from their own country with our platform Wij & corona. ILC Japan is a member of the ILC Global Alliance, an international federation researching and advocating the vitality and the societal and economical position of older people. In the Netherlands, the ILC network is represented by Leyden Academy.

Toshiya is gaining weight
Today we published the first translated story, from 71-year old Toshiya from the Kanagawa Prefecture. His experiences may sound familiar for Dutch readers: Toshiya is struggling to stay in shape, he misses going downtown and looking around in stores, and has concluded that online drinking with friends can lead to uncomfortable silences… In the coming weeks, we will share a story from Japan on our platform every Wednesday.

Wij & corona is initiated by Leyden Academy and the GetOud foundation to give older people in the Netherlands a voice and a stage to share their experiences during the COVID-19 crisis. We have so far published over 230 personal stories. Do you have a story to share, please send us an email.