How to Become a Senior Friendly Business (Or Recognize One)

It’s always time to support our elders in the community, but the holiday season is a particularly opportune time to consider new ways of doing that. In that spirit, we’d like to provide information that can you help you to support elders not only during this busy shopping season, but also throughout the year—by encouraging your favorite businesses to become Senior Friendly certified.

The Anchorage Senior Friendly Project (ASFP) will be launching officially early in 2014. Today, we’d like to provide an overview of the process for becoming Senior Friendly certified, so that you can help to identify and encourage local businesses to participate in the program when it launches (and get a jump on efforts, now).

1) Application: Interested businesses must fill out an application. They can do so online or by downloading and mailing the application, once complete. There will be an application fee.

2) Evaluation: The Anchorage Senior Friendly team will send “mystery shoppers” to the business location to perform an evaluation.

  •  The business staff and owners will not know who the mystery shoppers are.
  • The mystery shoppers will not in any way, detract from the experience of other customers.
  • The mystery shoppers will not interrupt the normal flow of business.

3) Assessment and Review: The SFP program administrator will assess the evaluations and then schedule a time to review them with the business owner/manager.

4) Education and Training: Based on the evaluations and nationally accepted guidelines, the business will be challenged to provide exceptional senior friendly customer service. A workshop can be scheduled to facilitate this goal and provide the owner and staff with the tools to understand:

  • Aging and the challenges our senior community members face as consumers.
  • Anchorage demographics.
  • Diversity in the aging experience.
  • Economic advantages in catering to an older consumer.
  • Needs of the senior consumer, their support and their referral network.

5) Certification: Once training is complete, the business will submit a membership fee and earn:

  • A certification Letter and ASFP Certificate suitable for framing and display.
  • A standard community news release ready for business customization.
  • An ASFP window decal and digital file of logos and training materials.
  • A monthly promotional listing in the Senior Voice, as well as placement on the websites of Older Persons Action Group and Mabel T. Caverly Senior Center, and possibly other publications.
  • Ongoing support, if needed, from the ASFP team.
  • Annual recertification support that includes necessary training and education

The business will also gain:

  • Unlimited opportunities to improve customer service in a lucrative and growing senior market.
  • Increased marketing advantages through display of the Senior Friendly decal, free advertising and a huge referral base.
  • Established positive interaction among younger customers and staff through improved interaction with older customers.

Where Do We Start?

Even though the project has not officially launched, a great deal of research and planning has already taken place. We know what seniors in our community want and need in order to have a positive shopping experience. At a basic level, businesses can begin by assessing themselves and addressing those needs. As a community member, we encourage you to start looking at businesses from a Senior Friendly standpoint and lauding those who work to fit the criteria, which can include:

  • Good Lighting.
  • Wider aisles to accommodate multiple customers and wheelchairs.
  • Large print signs and tags.
  • Places to sit and rest.
  • Working electric carts (where applicable).
  • Helpful, respectful staff.

Start with these six criteria and while you are out and about this week, see how many businesses meet or exceed them. If you find a business with great potential, mention them on our Facebook page and tell us why you think they’d be a great fit for the Anchorage Senior Friendly Project.