SEA certificate program gives insight into aging, entrepreneurship

August 2018

As baby boomers head into retirement and beyond, businesses are finding a need to adapt to their changing needs and desires.

The online Social Entrepreneurship & Aging Graduate Certificate (SEA) at Miami University helps to prepare socially-minded entrepreneurs and professionals in the field of aging for success in the era of aging and entrepreneurship.

“Aging is very variable. The fact is, that we’re talking about a population between age 60 or 65 and age 100 and they have very different needs,” gerontology professor Robert Applebaum noted. “It might be travel services. It might be how we can better communicate with our grandchildren. What’s going to be the next technology that’s going to allow people to communicate across generations?”

In SEA student Gail Bicknell’s case, success means expanding her interior design business by learning to make homes barrier-free and age-friendly.

“Age-friendly design is equally important for children and people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities,” she explained. “My goal is to make my work compliant with universal design standards, but to look and feel simply like an aesthetic, functional and beautiful home.”

Trained by faculty in the practical use and application of gerontology and business, students learn:

  • An overview of gerontology and aging from a social entrepreneurial standpoint
  • Interdisciplinary fundamentals of entrepreneurship, along with incorporated gerontology concepts
  • Challenges and market opportunities created by individuals’ aging and an aging society
  • Skills required to transform and launch a creative idea into a sustainable business plan
  • “In this course, the students actually become active entrepreneurs and turn a mere business idea into a real business opportunity through the Lean Startup process,” entrepreneurship professor Mark Lacker explained.

    Participants use an online format that allows them to complete the four courses on their own time over a year’s span and from any location. Bicknell, a 1978 Miami graduate, lives in New Jersey.

    “Our first cohort includes a diverse group, from professionals in the field of aging looking to be entrepreneurial to entrepreneurs looking to apply their talents to the aging marketplace,” Applebaum said. “The mix creates an exciting exchange of ideas that we think will result in creative new ideas to improve the lives of older people.”

    Even though the SEA Certificate is an online course, students are learning very actionable hands-on skill sets.

    “I've never taken such an exploratory class before and I went through stages of questioning and frustration, just as I now see (it was) intended we would,” Bicknell said. “Once I began to see a method to the madness, I came to really enjoy it.”

    “The final paper was a revelation to put together -- to revisit the steps that led me to my last business model and all I'd gained was pretty amazing,” she remarked.

    “We’re taking the expertise from the Scripps Gerontology Center and Miami’s expertise in Gerontology and merging that with the expertise of the Farmer School of Business Institute for Entrepreneurship and bringing them together,” Applebaum explained.

    Traditional products and marketing may not have much success with older consumers if businesses do not recognize and adapt to their changing needs.

    “Everything we think about in products and services has to be different,” Applebaum said. “It is important to recognize our aging population and design products and services that will meet their needs.”

    graphic graphic showing older adults will outnumber children by 2035