Businesses can learn how to be ‘age-friendly’ with new guide

The provincial government and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to help businesses create an environment that is safe and comfortable for seniors

The provincial government and the B.C. Chamber of Commerce have teamed up to help businesses create an environment that is safe and comfortable for seniors.

Creating an Age-friendly Business in B.C. is a guide designed to help new and prospective business owners ensure their  businesses are age-friendly. It includes information on how businesses can provide an environment of safety, comfort, visibility and respect for older customers.

The guide also includes examples of best practices from existing businesses and an assessment tool to help business operators determine if their business is age-friendly and learn how to make improvements.

Examples of age-friendly community changes include widening sidewalks, installing benches, maximizing green space, or making programs and services more accessible to the older population.

“Seniors are an integral part of B.C. families and this guide reflects our commitment to ensuring supports are in place for the safety and well-being of B.C. seniors,” said Minister of Health Michael de Jong. “Age-friendly businesses and communities support older adults to live active, socially-engaged and independent lives and people of all ages and abilities benefit from safer, barrier-free buildings and streets and better access to local businesses and facilities.”

Given the demographic realities of the baby boomer generation, accommodating older customers is becoming a necessity.

More than 650,000 British Columbians are 65 or older, and the post-war baby  boom generation begins to turn 65 in 2011.

By 2031, more than 1.3 million British Columbians will be over 65 – almost a quarter of the province’s population.

“New and existing businesses alike will benefit from creating an age-friendly environment,” said John Winter, president of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce.

“Making these adjustments will be good for businesses in B.C., and good for the health and long-term independence of all customers.”

The province has made a number of commitments to seniors in the past week.

Last week Premier Christy Clark announced $3.5 million to support an innovative project at the University of Victoria that will help seniors and people with disabilities remain as independent as possible while still living at home. The province also unveiled a suite of multimedia training resources that will support physicians and other health professionals to educate seniors in ways to prevent falls and stay healthy.

Every year, the province publishes the easy-to-read B.C. Seniors’ Guide, containing information on a range of topics including transportation options, housing, health services and healthy living. It is also available in Chinese, Punjabi and French translations and includes telephone numbers and website information for frequently used resources.

 

Signs of an age-friendly business include:

* Wider aisles and uncluttered pathways to better accommodate walkers

and wheelchairs.

* A place for customers to sit while waiting, and a place to put

packages down.

* Clear signage.

* Adequate and glare-free lighting.

* A service desk that is clearly visible so customers can ask for help.

* Staff made aware of the needs/challenges faced by older customers.