Adviser: Longer careers serve seniors, society

Like many people who visit the city, Randal Charlton fell in love with New Orleans, so much so that he thought the city’s mix of food and music would be a sure-fire hit in Sarasota, Fla., where he lived at the time.

Café New Orleans was no such thing, however, and Charlton was left in his 50s with nothing.

"I lost everything, including my house, and wound up flat broke," he said. Other ventures failed as well, and he found himself facing his 60th birthday with a near decade-long losing streak.

Now 72, he has found a way back. After spending time as an executive director of Tech Town, a business incubator at Wayne State University, he’s now launched a start-up service for people over age 50 looking to launch new businesses. BOOM the New Economy seeks to help these individuals -- some financially secure and looking for service opportunities, others displaced from long-held positions and needing new jobs.

"You can look at income disparities as a conflict/competition between young and old, but I take a different view," said Charlton. "I believe the economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe will go to the people who figure out how to best address the issues of young and old together."

About 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 every day in the United States, facing retirement at a time when the country is finding its place in a global economy, he said.

"How do we cope? I believe one of the answers is to help solve issues that face older adults. If you create a health-care system and an economy that older adults can survive and thrive in, you create a great place for younger people as well."

In many ways, Charlton is indicative of older workers, or at least white-collar workers -- working longer, either out of desire or necessity, and struggling to find a place where he’s needed.

"People are living longer," he said. "The third stage is a long time to be playing golf. Some are financially secure and looking to give back. Others are unable to find a job. Others want to redefine their careers, but do it in an entrepreneurial way. People who've worked in big corporations might want to try a start-up."

BOOM offers mentoring and something Charlton calls "collision networking" -- throwing older adults together with young ones. The elders offer the wisdom of experience, the young ones the energy of the new (and frequently good ideas on how to use technology better), he said.

"I could see a taxation system where older adults got more credit for continuing to contribute, rather than being pure retirees, who consume resources," he said.

"One can look at income disparities as a conflict/competition between young and old, but I take a different view. I believe the economic recovery in the U.S. and Europe will go to the people who figure out how to best address the issues of young and old together." 

Staff Writer Nancy Nall Derringer has been a writer, editor and teacher in Metro Detroit for seven years, and was a co-founder and editor of, an early experiment in hyperlocal journalism. Before that, she worked for 20 years in Fort Wayne, Indiana, where she won numerous state and national awards for her work as a columnist for The News-Sentinel.

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Thu, 07/26/2012 - 3:49pm
I commend Mr. Charlton for his new direction and optimism. Optimism is necessary for success but realism pays the bills. Most seniors do not have the discretionary capital to invest in a new business. Loosing everything at 35 is different than loosing everything at 65. Education and experience is not the silver bullet as young and old alike are finding out. There are not enough job opportunities or "pet rock" ideas to keep everyone working and solvent. However, increasing understanding between young and old at the expense of the American myth "that I did it all myself" is worthwhile. What I agree with is the requirement that retirees continue to give back to society. Maybe even forgo their SSI and Medicare which they mistakenly believe they paid for way back when. Boomers will live for 20 to 30 years playing golf and watching TV while increasing the cost of healthcare and taxes for the working families that pay their bills. To top it off, seniors usually vote Republican which leads to increased military spending and fewer subsidizes, that seniors certainly enjoy, for working families.