Across Canada and abroad, communities are realizing that our population is making a fundamental shift. There are not simply more older adults, but people are living longer and staying more active.
In Guelph, 25.6 per cent of the population is 55+ and expected to grow to 30 per cent by 2031 (Greater Golden Horseshoe Growth Forecasts to 2041, Technical Report, November 2012). For the first time in Canada, those over 65 years of age outnumber those 14 years old and under. Clearly, the population in our community is changing.
The World Health Organization (WHO) emphasizes 8 dimensions of an age-friendly community. Guelph is part of the World Health Organization’s Global Network of Age-friendly Cities and Communities, and our city has been actively upholding its Older Adult Strategy via Age Friendly Guelph.
Older adults are a rapidly growing population and have loyal spending power and more discretionary time compared to other age groups. Therefore, Age Friendly Guelph has begun developing a model to assess businesses in Guelph on their age-friendliness. Guelph businesses can celebrate diversity and make changes to work toward a fairer society at every age.
Take a moment and examine your business, organization, building or service through an age-friendly lens. Talk with your older adult customers, critically examine your space and service, and take those important steps to move toward a more customer-centred care. This approach includes best practices in providing services with empathy, respect and patience to support a person to make decisions for themselves by offering responsive services.
Adopting an age-friendly customer service and care model will allow front-line staff to provide better service to a variety of customers, learn about vulnerable and at-risk older adults, and meet the needs of a growing, changing demographic. Also, good service is a two-way street. Good communication and service will make an older adult more likely to revisit, become loyal, and spread the word about a business that makes them feel comfortable and valued.
Remember: an age-friendly business is a customer friendly business. Productive changes to lighting, background noise, seating options, obstructions, information formats, or accessibility benefits a variety of customers. This can include families with young children and strollers, those with a physical disability, pregnant women, and people with injuries, to name a few.
Age-friendly businesses will have improved service by meeting the needs of seniors, and will actively combat ageism. Be a part of a changing Guelph with your business initiatives!
For more information about how you can support or get involved with Age Friendly Guelph, get in touch via email@example.com or visit guelph.ca/agefriendly.
by Charlotte Hopkins, Age Friendly Guelph practicum student via the University of Guelph