As They Aged, They Started Businesses for People Like Them

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Mary Anne Hardy was at a crossroads in her nursing career. A health program she had been working for ended, and, not ready to retire, she was trying to figure out her next move.At a conference, she heard about patient advocates, who help people, particularly the elderly and their adult children, navigate the increasingly complex American health care system.“It was a light bulb,” said Ms. Hardy, 65, who became certified as an advocate and began taking clients in 2013. “I thought about my parents’ experience, and it was a motivator.”In choosing her new vocation, Ms. Hardy, who lives in Derwood, Md., thought she could help others avoid the “nightmare” she had faced years earlier, she said. Her mother had a stroke and then bowel surgery, followed by a cascade of infections and other preventable ailments. She was transferred from facility to facility, with little communication among medical professionals or with her.“People feel lost in the medical system,” Ms. Hardy said. With her by their side, they feel they “are taken seriously and listened to.”Like many older entrepreneurs, Ms. Hardy is looking to her own peers for business opportunities. They are turning their lifelong skills into encore careers …

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