Make your Business Age-friendly

With the first of the post-war baby boomers turning 65 this year, this expanding demographic has become a key market for businesses to target; the number of British Columbians aged 65+ soared to over 650,000 this year.

This large market holds a lot of purchasing power, with older adults often having the most disposable income and the most time to spend it.  These loyal shoppers habitually prefer to build relationships with suppliers who they trust, so by tailoring your business to this market it could help you attract and keep these loyal customers.

Knowing this demographic could be essential to growing your business, from helping you develop different product lines to improving your customer service, so perhaps it’s time to start considering how to attract and retain them.

Is your Business Age-friendly?

Although many people within this demographic are healthy and independent, it is important to consider how your business cares for the safety, comfort, visibility, clarity and respect of your clients, in case issues should arise.

Below is a summary of the four key areas you need to consider to make your business age-friendly according to Senior BC’s guide to Creating an Age-friendly Business in BC.

1. Safety

Think about how people with reduced mobility, ability and balance will access your business from both the street and from within your business premises.

Are your entrances clear of street furniture? Are your doors wide enough for wheelchairs? Is there accessible seniors’ parking available close to your premises?

Do you have study handrails on your stairways and are the stair edges clearly marked? Is your flooring non slip? Are you most popular items shelved at medium height?

2. Comfort

Consider providing facilities for people with limited strength and stamina to rest.  These can include:

  • Seating at line-ups
  • Service counters which are accessible for customers in wheelchairs
  • Customer telephones with large print buttons and amplification capabilities for the hearing impaired.

3. Visibility and Clarity

Provide facilities for those with poor sight or hearing so that your customers are able to see what you want them to see and hear what you say.

Consider making premises evenly lit, and train staff to speak clearly and can assist customers who have vision or hearing challenges.

Ensure your signage is clear and understandable.

Decrease the volume of background music or remove altogether; music can be distracting and uncomfortable for those with hearing challenges.

4. Respect

Provide all staff with training to avoid condescending behaviour; be patient, friendly and able to identify if a person is experiencing a medical emergency.

Promote respect amongst your staff and your customers and ensure that people’s needs are addressed without stereotyping or drawing conclusions based on age or ability.

How to Start Making your Business Age-Friendly

1. Ask your customers or clients

Conduct a survey or interview your clients as they come in.  Don’t just limit your questioning to current customers which fit this 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.

When preparing your survey, first decide on the types of answers you want to receive – verbal or written, descriptive answers or rankings of importance – and let this lead your decision on the types of question you would like to ask. Use this information to gather ideas of the types of changes which could be made and to help assess the priority of each of the changes.

2. Find out 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.

3. Age Friendly Information

Visit Seniors BC to take their age-friendly business assessment and read more about the changes you can make to your business to make it age-friendly.