Why Older Is Better

At age 60+, these entrepreneurs have learned how to feed their souls while also making the world a better place.

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We Know How To Give Back

What She Does: As a board member for Children's Home Society, Grace Strangis visited orphanages around the world and was astounded by what she saw: open sewers, open wiring, and most striking, sick, undernourished, abandoned children cared for by mentally ill women. "I decided it was my calling to figure out a way to help," she said. 


She founded a non-profit organization, Pathways to Children, leading humanitarian tours so others could "see, hear and smell" what she did. Now through donations, fund-raising events and her personal resources, her organization has built an orphanage in Kerala, India, as well as developed and staffed two schools in the impoverished area of Kolkata, India for street and slum children. 


Why Older Is Better: "I am at a time in my life, after a full career, to have the time, resources, and experience to give back."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pathways to Children

We Gain Perspective

What She Does: A diagnosis of systemic lupus sent Nancy Doan on a soul-searching journey. "Because of a remaining side effect of severe light sensitivity and disabling fatigue, I knew I would never be able to work as an ordained member of the clergy again," she said.


When her then grown daughter asked for the music and lyrics of her childhood, Doan's soul-searching journey ended. She founded Recess Music, a music production company. "When I think of my purpose in the creation of an album, it is to be a bridge that brings together children, families and educators for the benefit of an important subject, like caring about our planet or being understanding of the people sharing the world," she said.


Why Older Is Better: "Wisdom – what we learn from our greatest achievements and our biggest failures – is what each individual and each generation brings to the table of human experience. It is why history matters; it is the record of human experience both wise and foolish. I believe that I have become wise, not in all things, but at least in some things."

Heidi Soll Photography

We Can Read Between the Lines

What She Does: Dr. Marion Somers, who pens the syndicated column, "Ask Doctor Marion", believes we're on the verge of an "elder care tsunami." She launched Dr. M Media to provide practical tools, solutions, and advice to those struggling to care for our aging population.


"My gift is helping to heal the emotional pain that people so often go through with caregiving, and the frustration of not knowing what to do or where to turn for help," she said. She's written, "Elder Care Made Easier: Doctor Marion's 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One," and developed two iPhone apps,  Elder 411 and Elder 911


Why Older Is Better: "As an older person, you also know how to listen. And I don’t mean just the words that come out of someone’s mouth--you learn to listen to what’s not being said as much as what is. Sometimes, the answer lies in the silences--in the body language and tone of what they’re saying, and less in the words."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Dr. M Foundation

We Gain Confidence

What She Does: Mary Miller's husband, Tony, founded JANCOA Janitorial Services as a small family business, but under her tutelage it grew into a company with more than $10 million in revenues and 300 employees. "I have told people that similar to The Blues Brothers, I am on a mission from God and I’m disguised as a janitor," she said. "It’s not just about cleaning toilets and mopping floors. It’s about going after a bigger future and being excited about possibilities." 


Why Older Is Better: "I really like myself! That is a huge advantage as far as I’m concerned because most of my life I tried to please others and to get them to like me. In the process I kind of forgot who I really was and needed to take a step back and get grounded. "

Photo Credit: Glutz Photography

We've Learned Patience

What She Does: As executive director of the Washington Chamber Symphony at the Kennedy Center, Bonnie Ward Simon developed concerts for parents and their children to enjoy classical music together. "For years, people came backstage after the concerts and said, 'We purchased our tickets to hear Peter and the Wolf, but we really loved The Story of Swan Lake or Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. Where can we buy a recording of it?'" said Simon. "And I would always have to say, “They don’t exist." 


Now they do. Simon produces the classical Stories in Music CD series for parents and children to explore symphonic music at home. Her husband, Stephen, is the musical director.


Why Older Is Better: "I have the patience to know that it takes time to do things right and that it is worth it."

Photo Credit: Elizabeth Armstrong

We Draw from a Wealth of Knowledge

What she does: While divorcing, Nancy Butler moved 70 miles from home, taking her daughters with her. Lacking child support, alimony or other sources of income, she started a financial planning practice, which she sold in 2007 when it had approximately $200 million in assets under management and 1,200 clients. Now, with Above All Else, she travels across the country as a motivational speaker and consultant sharing the knowledge she's accumulated over the years. "I love that I am able to make such a great difference to so many people and businesses and do it in a way that I truly enjoy," Butler said.



Why Older Is Better: "I have been there and personally lived through most all the things I talk about."


Photo Credit: Vincent Scarano

We Work Towards Solutions

What She Does: Jo Staffelbach Heinz comes from a long line of entrepreneurs. Her great, great, great grandmother started a floral and greenhouse business in 1896. So it was no surprise when Heinz struck out on her own and opened Staffelbach, an interior architecture and design firm. "Our work influences productivity, influences the work life satisfaction quotient and truly makes the world a better place," she said. "And that, along with the well being and satisfaction of our clients, is such a top priority to all those who are in our firm."

Why Older Is Better: "One can see the desired outcome with greater clarity and I believe there is a stronger commitment to being true to oneself. I also believe that as you age, conflict is viewed much more calmly and with a spirit of reason and resolution."

Photo Credit: Hodges Photography

We Know True Light Comes from Within

What She Does: When Doris Acton traveled to Sierra Leone with OC Ministries in Minnesota, restoring churches, parsonages and schools destroyed during its civil war, she noticed the lack of health care services. "As a nurse I felt compelled to do something," she said. "I just wanted babies to have a chance to live beyond 5 years."


Acton, along with Lance and Julie Burma of Africa Uplifted, established a small rural clinic in Manonkoh, Sierra Leone called The Doris Acton Community Health Center. They train villagers to share their health knowledge. "One day a young mother spoke to the group about how and what to feed small children," Acton said. "It was amazing to see her stand up before the crowd and speak about nutrition."


Why Older Is Better: "I recognize that life is not about me but what I as a person can contribute to this earth. I am more intentional, am more spiritual and recognize that God is in all that I am and do. Age allows you to take yourself out of the equations and let others shine."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Doris Acton

We Appreciate the Value of Time

What She Does: For her daughter's seventh birthday party, Myrna Hoffman created an optical illusion art project based on anamorphosis, which uses curved mirrors to make a distorted image appear normal when reflected. "All the children were so wowed by the brain-tickling eye-hand fun that their parents urged me to go into business," she said.


She heeded their advice and created Ooz & Oz. Now her products have won 25 national toy honors, most recently a Dr. Toy Classic Toy Award. In 2001, she was a national winner of Oprah’s Oxygen TV Build Your Own Business contest. 


Why Older Is Better: "The Bucket List. We can justify saying, “If I don’t do this now, then when?” and no one can challenge us!"

Photo Credit: Dennis Hamilton

We Can Balance Life and Work

What She Does: Five years ago, Rose Gerstner grew bored as a stitcher in a regional theater. "I knew that women over 40 were concerned about the environment, as many of our generation have led the way in raising consciousness about it," she said. "Yet, there didn't seem to be many options for eco-friendly apparel geared toward our demographic." She launched Sympatico Clothing, creating sustainable fashions to fufill the need.


Why Older Is Better: "I've had time to learn my craft. I know that it's important to balance my work with the rest of my life and avoid burnout. My children are grown, and I have time to focus on the business without feeling guilty about neglecting them."


Photo Credit: Willow Paule

We Make Smarter Decisions

What She Does: When Anita Crook received an expensive, trendy purse from her son as a Christmas gift, she knew she'd never use it. It had no pockets, and she detested fumbling through a purse to find her keys, a pen, or, worst of all, a ringing cell phone. "I thought, 'If only there was a way to stay organized and still use this purse'," she said. That sparked Pouchee®, a purse organizer insert with inside and outside pockets, as well as dividers, that fits inside your handbag. "I love meeting women who tell me that the pouchee has changed their lives," she said.


Why Older Is Better: "You make smarter decisions. The decisions I’ve made are because I have 60-some years of life behind me. Pouchee launched with little overhead and absolutely no debt--I've never once had to borrow money for this business."

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Pouchee

We're Perceptive

What She Does: Regina Dreyer Thomas surveyed single older adults in committed, exclusive relationships, and compiled their stories in, "Love & Successful Aging When You're 70+ and Single." Now she speaks at libraries and retirement communites about the social and emotional needs of this age group.


Why Older Is Better: "You have a lot of life savvy. Unless you've been living in a bubble (and it's always surprising to me how many people have), your perception skills are most acute, and you can weed out the nay-sayers without missing a beat or alienating anyone."

Photo Credit: Paul Imgrund

We've Learned Life's Lessons

What She Does: Julia Hutton refers to herself as "an addicted entrepreneur." She has not one, but three ventures: Orca Communications, a public relations firm specializing in inventors and entrepreneurs; Biker Babes and Beyond, a mobile retail store that caters to the needs of bikers; and ExTreme ReTrailers, custom-designed mobile retail stores for purchase.


"Most people my age are sitting around thinking about their aches, pains and pocketbooks," Hutton said. "It’s not to say I don’t experience these challenges, but I really like to concentrate on and think about the many business challenges I face and creative ways of dealing with them."


Why Older Is Better: "Life’s lessons. I have a triple Ph.D. from the College of Hard Knocks. No business school can teach it like it really 'comes down' in life." 

Photo Credit: Jaime Diaz

We Feel You Trust Our Experience

What She Does: Julie Paradise is the founder of Communication Strategies Company, providing speech coaching, media training and employee communication skill-building workshops. "I pride myself in being able to think like my clients and always putting myself in their shoes," she said.

Why Older Is Better: "New clients are always pleased that they will be working with an experienced professional and that I will be bringing all my experiences each time I work with them."

Photo Credit: Ben Zimmerman, South West Photos Las Vegas

We Mentor Others

What She Does: Nancy Chakrin's become more creative with age. She's a photographer, graphic designer, landscape painter, and the co-author of Friendship: The Art of the Practice, which won a gold medal at the 2011 Midwest Book Awards. "I love the significant variety of work and opportunities for unlimited creativity," she said.


Why Older Is Better: "I love how my very eclectic background has provided me the wisdom and people connections to serve as a mentor to others and widen the scope of their books and other projects."



Jennifer Jeanne Patterson is a freelance writer and author of 52 Fights. She lives in Minneapolis with her husband and three children. Find her blog at Unplanned Cooking.


Related: Amazing Body Transformations


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Photo Credit: Laurie Ellis-Young

First Published Sat, 2011-10-01 15:13

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