Business for all ages
Chamber luncheon addresses the need for more age-friendly communities
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 12, 2014 06:00 am
With an aging population on the rise in Alberta and across the globe, successful entrepreneurs must re-think their ways of attracting customers.
That was the message of Carol Ching, senior policy analyst with Alberta Health, at a St. Albert and District Chamber of Commerce lunch on Wednesday. Ching told entrepreneurs and chamber members how to build an age friendly community, and adapt their business to the needs of seniors.
“Age friendly is about communities for everyone. What is good for an older person typically also benefits other members of the community,” she said.
Today, about 475,000 seniors live in Alberta, with 103 people turning 65 each day. But in 2031, when the last baby boomer reaches the age of 65, the number of seniors in the province is expected to have grown to 950,000 people.
That means nearly one in five people will be over the age of 65, she said.
In St. Albert, the number of seniors is already above average, she added. Nearly 13 per cent of the population is 65-plus. That’s higher than the average in Alberta, which is about 11 per cent.
Considering the expected growth in senior population over the coming years, communities need to consider how to become more attractive and inclusive to seniors, she said.
“We need to realize that with an increasing age comes an increasing chance of living with disability,” she said. “So as we are getting older – and there may be more disabilities – we need to look at how we are developing our communities and supports and services.”
Six years ago, the World Health Organization released a framework called the Global Age-friendly Cities Project, a set of policies and programs to help communities adjust to a growing senior population.
Key features include everything from safe, accessible and clean public toilets, to well-lit sidewalks and easy to get to public buildings, services and housing, said Ching.
But age-friendly communities also involve entrepreneurs who want to create a business that is accessible to all ages, she said. That means stores offer comfortable places to sit and wait, are easy to navigate, and have visible signage and respectful and patient employees.
“It’s great to have a business and it’s great to offer a service but if people can’t get to you or access it, it causes a problem,” she said.
Business owners should also consider the benefits of holding on to older employees, she added.
Many seniors have a desire to work after retirement or continue their employment full-time beyond the age of 65. Making the workplace accessible to these workers will benefit the business in added expertise, and helps with the successful transfer of information and experience to future leaders, she said.
“Older workers tend to have strong work ethic, work well in team settings and require little supervision,” she said. “Research also shows that older workers have a strong desire to remain relevant through their continuous learning and use of abilities.”
Ching suggested that entrepreneurs can check the age-friendliness of their business by looking at it from their customer’s point of view. They can also ask for feedback from their employees and customers.
For more information on how to become a more age-friendly community, go to health.alberta.ca or search for “global age-friendly cities project” on who.int/en/.