The added value of a course on entrepreneurship for older people

The added value of a course on entrepreneurship for older people

In July 2021 Julia Heidstra successfully completed her MSc Vitality & Ageing in Leiden. The subject of her thesis was the impact on the wellbeing of older persons who participated in Silver Starters, an intensive online course on entrepreneurship which ran from January to March 2021 and was developed and organised by Leyden Academy and Aegon. Julia’s research found that these ‘olderpreneurs’ gained on eudaimonic wellbeing, and that it enabled them to flourish even more.

Eudaimonic wellbeing
There is a trend from welfare towards wellbeing when it comes to evaluating how successful populations are at managing health. Eudaimonic wellbeing is associated with mental health and is linked to physical health. Improving eudaimonic wellbeing can thus be useful in increasing population health. Leyden Academy has been at the forefront of stimulating focal areas of eudaimonic wellbeing: meaningfulness, connectedness and vitality. One of our recent interventions is Silver Starters. It has been shown that societal engagement, such as volunteer work or later life employment contributes to purpose in life and meaningfulness.

About Silver Starters
In this free-of-charge, personal learning program people aged 50+ learn the basics to turn their idea into their own business in several modules of online learning and personal coaching by experts. Almost 100 ‘olderpreneurs’ participated in the course, working on start-up ideas ranging from lung function testing, virtual reality learning applications to improving self-sufficiency of agricultural products in Curaçao. Whilst it is too early to judge whether any of these start-up ideas will actually grow into (internationally) listed ventures, research carried out by Julia on the impact of the course showed additional benefits to the participants.

Research method and question
Julia used qualitative and quantitative measures. Respondents (N=40), completed Diener’s Satisfaction With Life Scale and a single question about whether participants found that the course had impacted their wellbeing and answers were recorded on a Likert-like scale. Furthermore, in-depth interviews were then conducted (N=10) to investigate the impact from the participants’ perspectives. The following questions guided this impact research:

  • Did participation in Silver Starters have an impact on the individual’s wellbeing?
  • How did participants evaluate this wellbeing?
  • How did participants feel that Silver Starters provided them with a tool to achieve eudaimonic outcomes in the future?

Participants reported high levels of wellbeing that was even more positively impacted by participating in Silver Starters. One of the reasons of these high levels of wellbeing were the proactive coping strategies participants demonstrated. Such coping strategies focused on personal growth and adaptation, for instance reflecting on experiences, seeking learning opportunities and putting things in perspective. Feelings of connectedness and meaningfulness were associated with vitality. This indicates that Silver Starters not only provided entrepreneurial skills, it also enabled flourishing. These findings suggest that a course in entrepreneurship can add so much more to society than economic values and that it can even help in managing population health.

You can always start again but there’s always something that can go wrong. I thought, I need a better foundation, how it is done, because at school you only learn useless things, formulas and French and things you’ll never need. You don’t learn about life. Entrepreneurship is, that is a lot closer to life than all the knowledge you have to learn.’ – 57-year-old participant

Click here to read Julia’s thesis.

A brighter future with the Master Vitality & Ageing

A brighter future with the Master Vitality & Ageing

Discover the colourful careers of a greying society with the Master Vitality & Ageing. Become an expert on healthy ageing, co-creation, innovation and health management of an ageing population. Are you interested in learning more in an international setting and want to obtain a master degree? Join the Experience Day on the 8th of June and find out what it’s like to be Vitality & Ageing student! Click here for more information and to register.

The Master Vitality & Ageing is not only a great opportunity for Medicine students, but also for other disciplines such as Biomedical Sciences, Health Sciences, Health and Life Sciences, Health and Society, Movement Sciences, Nutrition and Health, and Psychology. You can register as a first or second Master, in a full-time or flexible programme. This latter is perfect should you wish to combine your job in the elderly care with a matching Master.

We have received so many enthusiastic reactions from present and past Master students. They are the best ambassadors, and their words speak for themselves:

Jodie, Vitality & Ageing and Medicine student: “After my Bachelor’s in Medicine, I had a long wait before I could start with my medical internship. To fill up this time usefully, I decided to look for a Master’s to complement my knowledge in the medical field. The programme helps me to better understand my future patients and ask for their wishes, needs and views on situations. It teaches me valuable and exceptional lessons which I take to heart to become a better doctor.”

Lisa, Vitality & Ageing student and psychologist: “The Master Vitality & Ageing teaches me to look beyond the borders of my work as a psychologist. I believe the increasing complexity in the elderly care asks for good collaboration”.

Should you have any questions, please contact the student ambassador Marieke Vieveen ( or the study advisor Lucia Creveld (

Are you looking for a brighter future as well? You can sign up for the Master Vitality and Ageing until the 15th of June!

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