Around 800,000 people over the age of 65 are currently living and shopping in Ireland, but do companies really value their business?
This age group is the wealthiest in the country, with the customer base set to grow to a massive 1.6 million by 2051.
We’ve been finding out what it means to be an ‘Age Friendly’ business, and how it can benefit both companies and customers.
In Newbridge, County Kildare, Specsavers run a special ‘Age Friendly’ morning for customers every Wednesday, complete with an age friendly music playlist.
“You might have Elvis, or Dean Martin playing in the store on a Wednesday,” said Ali Rock, the store’s ‘Age Friendly Champion’.
“We have often seen people jiving on the shop floor, we’ve heard them singing on the shop floor – it is lovely to see and lovely to hear,” Ms Rock said.
Playlist aside, the branch offers longer testing times at their age friendly clinic, for older patients looking to get their sight or hearing tested.
“We offer a clinic that is specifically designed for older patients,” Ms Rock said.
“So if a patient needed a little bit longer time in the test room for whatever reason, we offer that.”
The team at Specsavers, Newbridge
Most importantly, Ms Rock said they always have time for a chat with their customers.
“I always think back to a conversation I heard on the radio of an older lady who said she posted herself a postcard just to chat with the postman.
“We never really know who the last person a customer had a conversation with, so we’re here to have the chat or a jive at our age friendly clinic.”
Marian Domican from Brownstown enjoys her visits to the Specsavers branch in Newbridge.
“As soon as you walk in the door, there is always somebody there, you’re not left standing, you’re brought to sit down – and everybody is very pleasant,” she said.
Ms Domican said she hopes more businesses will make the effort to become age friendly, especially supermarkets.
She said she often struggles when it comes to reaching items that are placed either too high or too low.
“When I bend down, I can’t get back up. So it would be nice to have more flexy people on the floor to help the elderly,” she said
Ali Rock, ‘Age Friendly Champion’ at Specsavers, Newbridge and Marian Domican
Specsavers is just one of many companies in Ireland that has completed Age Friendly Ireland’s business recognition programme.
All 60 of the branches across the country have engaged with the programme, along with companies such as Bank of Ireland, AXA insurance and FBD insurance.
It is a four step programme, as Orlaith Carmody, business consultant for Age Friendly Ireland explained.
“Businesses complete our two hour online training programme, and that person who comes on the training would be nominated as the Age Friendly Champion for that particular business or brand.
“After they do the training, they go back to their business and they consult with their older customers and colleagues, and they come up with three very simple no cost or low cost changes in order to demonstrate that they are age friendly,” Ms Carmody said.
She said these changes can be very simple, but very effective.
“A business might hold extra pairs of reading glasses at the cash desk or make font sizes on menus bigger,” she said.
“When they notify us of the changes we send them out their charter, which nominates them as an age friendly business,” she explained.
Businesses can then use the Age Friendly Ireland logo on their door to show customers they’ve completed the programme, and are recognised as an age friendly business.
Those over the age of 65 account for around half of all consumer spending, and so Ms Carmody said it makes sense for businesses to focus more on their older customers.
“Your older customer is a very valuable customer to you and it makes sense to actually put a few simple changes in place to tell the customer you value them, you welcome them, you want their business – and a few of those focuses can give you a great return,” she said.
Businesses can find out more about the Age Friendly Ireland Business Recognition programme online.
“Just get in touch and we will get back to you very fast, believe me,” Ms Carmody said.