The Business of Age-Friendly

A clothes store with jackets hanging and a table with other clothes.Many businesses would like to expand their customer base to include older people and people with disability, but not sure how to do it. Utilising a checklist is one way to start thinking about it. Several organisations have produced checklists and other information to help businesses understand what they can do. Much of it costs little or nothing. Here are just three.

COTA TAS has a checklist that has a rating scale from excellent to needs work. It covers external environments, shop entrances, safety, comfort, and staff training, and much more. It’s nine pages and easy to read.

AgeUK has a more comprehensive document that provides the reasoning behind some of the “Top Tips’. These include telephone interactions, websites, and resolving complaints. Toilets, seating and other physical factors are also included. This is a report based on consumer workshops.

Of course being age-friendly means being friendly to all ages. Many of the suggestions are compatible with the needs of people with disability as well. The NSW Business Chamber has produced a guide for small business based on improving accessibility for everyone. However, this short online guide is not easy to read with small text and lots of graphics. It was based on the original Missed Business? by Marrickville Council and the Australian Human Rights Commission. It is also useful for local government authorities.

Shopping for All: Inclusive Retail

Photo of wide shopping corridor at BarangarooAs followers of universal design know, designing with people with disability in mind often results in greater convenience for everyone. 

The Australian Network on Disability, and Design for Dignity, with support from Lendlease, and the Commonwealth Bank, have produced an excellent resource for retail outlet designers. The key is for designers and retail outlets to understand the level of their missed business by ignoring population diversity. Graphs and statistics are used to highlight the lost opportunities. The missed business point is clearly made: “It is rare in business or design that organisations set out with “minimum standard” customer experience in mind. Designing to minimum accessibility standards is saying that this group of customers doesn’t deserve the same degree of thought, innovation and insight that is invested in other customers.” Readers are reminded that complying to Australian Standards does not make for best practice.

There are two versions of the guide aimed at retail business owners, service providers, shopping centre owners and managers, designers, builders and certifiers. The Australian Network on Disability has a webpage dedicated to the guide with additional links. It includes a link to an accessible PDF and Word versions. There is also a Design for Dignity microsite with the information in a web-based format with more detailgraph of people using mobility and hearing devices

Readers are cautioned about the notion of disability being about wheelchair users. A graph (above) is included showing the use of other mobility devices and communication aids. 

The diversity within the population is often disregarded in designs. Building code access compliance is still considered at the end of the design process as a necessary evil (hence the tacked on ramp) instead of integrated at the beginning. This guide helps to show the value of thinking inclusively from the outset.

Design for Shopping: a holistic approach

overhead picture of the fresh food section of a supermarketThe recent pandemic curtailed shopping in the high street and in malls. When the lockdowns were lifted the rush to the shops shows how much people enjoy shopping. Younger people talk of retail therapy, but for older people it is an important social activity, particularly those who live alone. So every part of “design for shopping” needs to be inclusive. 

Elnaz Davoudi from the San Francisco State University conducted an in-depth study of older people and their shopping habits. This included shadowing them as they made their way around a supermarket. The whole experience is documented and their are several design conclusions to be drawn from this work. Shopping carts, check outs, product packaging and much more are open for improved designs. The findings can also be generalised to other design disciplines. It is good to see a holistic approach in this research, not just the design of, say, a shopping trolley, or the product packaging.

The article is titled, Designing a Better Shopping Experience with a Holistic Approach to Ageing in Place. It is on page 21 in the Design for All newsletter from 2016.