By 2021, Canada’s senior population is projected to exceed the number of children aged 14 and under for the first time ever. In British Columbia, over 650,000 residents are aged 65 and over. This vibrant and active group not only has a lot of purchasing power, they’ve also got plenty of time to shop.
Advantages of Running an Age-Friendly Business
Catering to this older class of consumers isn’t just good business, it’s an increasing necessity in modern business. And, while most older people are healthy, independent individuals, there are still steps you can take to make the experience more comfortable for them. Doing so will see your customer base increase, your revenues will rise, and you’ll earn a reputation as a community-minded entrepreneur. To help you get started, here are some tips for creating an age-friendly business.
How to Create an Age-Friendly Business
Some senior citizens face the reality of limited mobility daily. Consider how these people access your business. Do they have to climb stairs? Access will become much easier for seniors if you offer the following:
- Ramps, sturdy railings and non-slip surfaces.
- Wider aisles free from clutter that could inhibit walkers or wheelchairs
- Automatic doors or doors that easily open
Making Things Comfortable
Providing a more comfortable shopping experience isn’t just good for seniors. It makes your place of business more hospitable for pregnant women and people with disabilities. Consider offering ample seating for customers to avail of while waiting. All chairs should have arms (for customers who need to push themselves up), while you should also offer an easily accessible customer washroom. Are your counters or cash registers accessible for customers in wheelchairs? If not, consider making this important investment.
Sight and Sound
Not all your customers are going to have 20/20 vision or perfectly clear hearing. Offer facilities for those with poor sight or hearing so customers will always be aware of their surroundings. Make sure your premises are well lit and all signage is clear and understandable. Staff training should include how to handle customers with vision or hearing challenges. Do you play music in your place of business? This can be disorientating for customers with hearing challenges.
The good news is, becoming a business that promotes respect won’t cost you a cent. Ensure staff are trained not to treat older customers impatiently or dismissively. Avoid condescending behaviours, be patient, friendly and able to identify if someone is in medical distress. Ensure your staff know how to recognize the signs a person needs help or is being physically or financially abused. For more information on how to spot this issue, visit the SeniorsBC website.
Ask Your Customers
The easiest way to find out what changes are needed is to simply ask your client base. Don’t just limit your questioning to current customers which fit the older demographic, ask all age ranges. What one older person may not see as an obstacle, a younger person may think of when considering a someone they know.
Understand the Numbers
Find out the number of older people in your market area and their disposable income to assess the size of your impacted market. Visit BC Stats for census data on each municipality and district. By assessing the size of your potential market you may better decide the size and scope of the changes needed for your business.