An “age-friendly” business considers the needs of older adults and creates a barrier-free environment that enables people of all ages and abilities to visit, shop and fully access the location’s spaces and use the offered services.
Several communities enrolled in the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities have established programs to encourage local businesses to be age-friendly. (Follow the link in the sidebar to read about some of those efforts.) The formal supports and rewards provided to a business varies by community. However, any business — whether in an age-friendly network community or not — can become age-friendly on its own.
Why a business should want to be age-friendly
Businesses that adapt their services and physical locations to be age-friendly can expand their customer base, and revenue, while helping older adults remain active and live independently. Some stats in support of the business case:
- Older adults (defined as people age 65 or older) are the fastest-growing population in the United States. By 2030, 1 in every 5 Americans will be age 65 or older. By 2034, the nation will have more people age 65 or older than children under the age of 18.1
- People age 50 or older contribute $8.3 trillion to the U.S. economy each year, or 40 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). Put another way, in terms of direct spending, 56 cents of every dollar spent in the U.S in 2018 was attributable to the 50-plus population. That amount is expected to increase to 61 cents by 2050.2
- Most adults (96 percent) are grandparents by age 65. (The average age to become a grandparent is 50, up from 48 in 2011.) According to an AARP report released in 2019, grandparents spend a collective $179 billion annually on their grandchildren — the average spent is $2,562.3
- Nearly 40 percent of people age 70 or older use an assistive device (such as a walker) to meet their self-care and mobility needs; more than 50 percent have a toilet-related modification (such as grab bars or a raised toilet seat) in their home. Being considerate of and accommodating to differing mobility and other needs can be crucial to a business’s success.4
Age-friendly business features
Below are just some of the features and services that help make a business age-friendly.
- The entry doors are easy to open
- There’s enough space for people to comfortably navigate and move within the shop, eatery or office
- The bathrooms are accessible for people with mobility issues
- Glass doors are clearly marked (so people don’t walk into them by mistake)
- Signage and symbols (arrows, rest rooms signs, etc.) are understandable, visible and legible
- The noise level is suitable for hearing and speaking
- The lighting is neither too dim nor too bright
- There are places where a customer can sit while waiting for service or for a brief rest
- The staff is respectful, helpful, and patient
Find more features and checklists from the communities featured in the article "Age-Friendly Business Examples."
Dalan Hwang is a consultant with the AARP Network of Age-Friendly States and Communities. He holds a master’s degree in public policy from the University of Maryland College Park and served in Tanzania as a Peace Corps volunteer specializing in community development and agriculture.
Page published October 2022
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