Judith Norton never imagined becoming a purveyor of high-end jam. The partially retired California resident instead spent the bulk of her career creating and writing educational training materials for private companies from the coffee industry to community colleges. Yet now, at 67, Norton finds herself contemplating a different career trajectory: as an entrepreneur who makes and markets low-sugar jam, finished with a splash of spirits. Her jam tastes so good that an Orange County Register food writer listed it as a favorite product for 2013. That's not a bad distinction for a product that Norton considered a hobby until recently.
Norton, like many aging Americans, is not ready to retire in the stereotypical sense — moving to Florida or playing bingo or spending her days shuttling between doctor's appointments. (She says she's way too healthy for that.) Instead, she is thinking about ramping up her jam-making into a small business with a dedicated production space and greater social media presence.
What helped to put her in this entrepreneurial frame of mind? A pilot program from AARP and the Kauffman Foundation that teaches entrepreneurial skills to baby boomers and senior citizens in Orange County and New York as a way to both keep this demographic engaged in the workforce for longer and to provide them with a potentially different way to earn money as they age. "We're trying to stimulate innovation that will benefit people over the age of 50," says Jody Holtzman, senior vice president of thought leadership at AARP, who helped to launch the pilot programs. "It can have a direct impact if people over 50 start companies, hire workers, and pay taxes."