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.