The Enterprising Self: a Panacea for all or New Fictitious Social Role for Older Adults? The Analysis of European Polices for Senior Entrepreneurship


The purpose of the paper is to explore how policy narratives in European policy documents frame the image and role of a senior entrepreneur. This article includes a critical assessment of policy texts in two policy frameworks of European Union and OECD, namely: the active ageing framework and the inclusive entrepreneurship framework. The aim of this paper is to address two research questions: How is senior entrepreneurship framed in the European policies? What are the narratives of exclusion and inclusion construed in the European policies on senior entrepreneurship? Using the theoretical perspective of enterprising self and critical gerontology, the paper identifies two major narrations within which the mechanisms of inclusion and exclusion operate: the hegemonic model of a senior entrepreneur and the economization of the model of senior entrepreneurship, with two sub-themes: the growth paradigm and the concept of entrepreneurial success. The recommendation for the future research and policy makers proposed in this paper is a more systematic development of life course sensitive policies with a more suitable mix of diverse approaches which would deescalate the existing inequalities.

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  1. 1.

    Several measures of self-employment can be adopted and the scientific definitions predominantly depend on the national context of the studies. For more on the measurements see Hipple (2010) for U.S. and European Commission (2010).

  2. 2.

    Sometimes it is implied that these are individuals after the retirement age, as for example in the 2013 EC document “Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan”, and some other use the chronological age categorization.

  3. 3.

    Sometimes also discussed under a term “entrepreneurial self”.

  4. 4.

    This shift can be compared to the time when women’s culture and women’s studies turned into gender studies in the 1980s (Krekula and Johannson 2017).

  5. 5.

    For example, in the Czech Republic in the “National Action Plan for Positive ageing 2013–2017”, or in Poland in the “Long-Term Senior Policy in Poland for years 2014–2020”.

  6. 6.

    The list of the policy documents is in the Annex Table 1.

  7. 7.

    The platform presents itself as: “a group of like-minded organisations, corporates, NGOs and academics whose mission is to ensure policy makers understand, appreciate and harness the important contribution that 50+ entrepreneurship can make to Europe’s economy and society and create an environment in which 50+ entrepreneurship can fulfil its potential”. The platform is a member of the European Innovation Partnership for Active and Healthy Ageing (

  8. 8.

    Sometimes a sharp differentiation between the two frameworks was not possible, as they overlap in several documents, for example in “Policy Brief on Senior Entrepreneurship” from 2012. The categorization should thus be approached flexibly.

  9. 9.

    Online available at:

  10. 10.

    The document follows the statistical data from Labour Force Survey and defines older workers as those between 55 and 69 years of age.

  11. 11.

    There have been three reports under this title which appeared in 2013, 2014 and 2015. Due to their very similar approach and little variance in describing the model of senior entrepreneurship, the following analysis concentrates on reports from 2014 and 2015.

  12. 12.

    In already established companies.

  13. 13.

    As a side note it can be said that the photos presented in the discussed policy documents on senior entrepreneurship strengthen this narrative, where predominantly pictures of well educated, technologically oriented and professional males are featured.


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Stypinska, J. The Enterprising Self: a Panacea for all or New Fictitious Social Role for Older Adults? The Analysis of European Polices for Senior Entrepreneurship. Population Ageing 11, 43–65 (2018).

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  • Senior entrepreneurship
  • Enterprising self
  • Critical gerontology
  • Inequalities
  • Policy narratives