Meeting the needs of older people will increasingly become a priority for businesses.
According to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado, the senior market is growing — 155 Coloradans turn 65 every day. As of 2015, 12.4 percent of residents of the Pikes Peak region were 65 or older, and the state Demography Office projects that the region’s 65-plus population, 68,000 in 2010, will increase to more than 176,000 by 2040.
These older people have buying power: 70 percent of disposable income in the country is in the hands of those over 60, and as they age out of the workforce, they move from making money to spending it.
Businesses that overlook these trends may be missing out on a rich and expanding market.
Raising awareness about the needs of older customers is one reason why the BBB launched its Age-Friendly Business Certification in September 2016. Almost two years later, the roster of those that have earned the designation has grown from an initial eight to more than 80 businesses.
To get the certification, businesses must be accredited by the BBB and meet four other criteria concerning their physical environment, staff and personnel, marketing and customer experience.
“The BBB comes to the business and goes through a checklist of best practices with the owner or manager,” said Claire Anderson, executive director of the Innovations in Aging Collaborative. Anderson worked with the BBB’s CEO Jonathan Liebert and Silver Key Senior Services to develop the Age-Friendly designation.
The Platinum Group, Realtors was among the first group of businesses to be certified.
Ed Behr of the Behr and Behr team and co-owner of The Platinum Group said he learned about the importance of removing trip hazards, making sure marketing materials are readable by older people and “not shouting if a client is hard of hearing — it’s demeaning.”
The team has its Age-Friendly Business certificate posted on a wall and uses the logo in marketing presentations and on its website. The certification is meaningful to a variety of the company’s clients, including older adults and their children.
“We want to raise awareness to consumers that this business is held to a higher standard in dealing with us,” Behr said.
Climate Design, an HVAC firm, was another original Age-Friendly designee.
Owner Michael Edde said he wanted to distinguish his company from those who “take advantage of seniors, just because they can. We wanted to figure out a way where, when we go into a house, they know we’re there to help them.”
Edde said his employees wear the Age-Friendly Business logo on their uniforms and believes the certification has enhanced his business.
The designation has helped the company’s reputation not only with older people but with customers who are in their 30s and 40s.
“A lot of seniors own homes and condos, and seniors here have families, and they have kids that have families,” he said. “It’s a big benefit to us. They see that we have been screened and they trust us per se. They see we’ve been checked out. We get a lot of people saying, ‘you’re age-friendly, that’s a good thing.’ ”
Edde said the Age-Friendly designation works well, along with a 10 percent senior discount.
“We give a lot of discounts,” he said. “We think that’s a good payback for us.”
The Age-Friendly Certification “really just means a business is customer-friendly,” said Lucy Crandall, associate publisher of Seniors Blue Book in Colorado Springs, the Western Slope and southern Colorado.
Adopting an age-friendly attitude also can open up new service lines and customer pools for businesses.
“Seniors need the same services we all need,” Crandall said. “They need their windows washed and their cars maintained. There are all kinds of things people could be doing.”
A gourmet senior meal service might be one of them.
Crandall said her mother was a senior when she first started publishing the Colorado Springs Seniors Blue Book.
“She would always call me and say, ‘Find me a grocery delivery service,’” Crandall said.
In the health care arena alone, there are breakthroughs on the horizon, such as wristbands that check blood sugar and monitor vital statistics, and new ways for families to communicate.
“Those are huge trends, but there’s going to be a huge learning curve,” Crandall said. “I feel like we’re in the trial stages for Baby Boomers; they’re the ones who are going to be using this incredible technology. There is room to provide some of those services.”
A senior-friendly Uber or Lyft is another idea that could fulfill a need for many seniors, said Mary Swantek, program and operations director at the Colorado Springs Senior Center.
Some seniors don’t have the tech capabilities or knowledge to use those services, and that points toward another gap in senior services: technology training.
“People want to learn their computers and smartphones,” Swantek said. “We have basic classes, but we’re not door-to-door helping people.”
“Age-Friendly Businesses are working really hard to provide the best and the right services,” Anderson said. “I think it’s a matter of helping people understand and know about what this community can offer for an aging parent or friend, and also for all of us that are aging.”
Anderson said businesses and employers that want to cater to older adults as workers or as customers should be aware of the things that make a community livable for all ages.
“A big piece of it is about quality of life,” she said. “That’s what a lot of these recommendations are about — a livable community that’s great for people 8 to 80.”
When businesses become more aware of the needs and wants of older adults, she said, “I think it just adds to and improves what they can offer.”
Disclosure: Jeanne Davant served as chairwoman of the Communications and Information Committee for Age-Friendly Colorado Springs.