FORTY Laois businesses were presented with Age Friendly Business Recognition Programme charters at a ceremony in the Killeshin Hotel, Portlaoise last week.
The businesses pledged their support for the charter, which underpins the core principle that older people are a most valuable resource to their communities and to society in general.
With in excess of one-million people aged over 60 now living in Ireland, that segment has over €10 billion in declared income.
The programme supports businesses to become more age-friendly. It helps them to recognise that satisfied older customers will focus their spending power where they have a long-term relationship. It also shows that older people tend to be loyal customers, as they have the time and inclination to shop locally. This is particularly important in rural towns and villages, where older people are very much the life-blood of these communities.
Ultimately, the programme sets out to prove that older people are good for business. However, in order to satisfy, retain and increase that customer base, businesses need to adopt some simple changes, such as making a business easier to find, enter, move around and make purchases in.
Last week, the Laois Older People’s Forum recognised and acknowledged 40 businesses for their efforts in making their stores more inviting for elderly people by making small changes to their shop environment, lighting, noise levels and customer services.
All of the firms were told that by promoting themselves as age-friendly businesses to older people that they are committed to serving them.
Welcoming up to 120 older people to the launch, master of ceremonies Georgina Ireland said: “Our goal through the Laois age-friendly programme is to improve the quality of life for older people in our county. Our aim is to ensure, through making improvements to our service delivery under many headings, that older people will be heard, their life experience learned from and that they will be nurtured and feel safe and well in their autumn years.”
Launching the charter, cathaoirleach of Laois County Council Pádraig Fleming said: “We are very lucky to have an active older population in Laois. Everyone hopes that as we grow older we will be supported, that we want to be listened to and taken seriously, to be able to work or volunteer and to enjoy a good social life with access to good information and healthcare.
“The age-friendly programme provides an opportunity to improve the quality of life for everybody in the community, both early and later in life,” he added.
The cathaoirleach told the recipients of the charter: “By advertising yourselves as an age-friendly businesses you are letting older people know that you value their custom and that you are committed to serving them. This can be a powerful tool in attracting custom and ultimately better for your business.”
Chairperson of Laois Age Friendly Alliance Donal Brennan said that to date the alliance, in conjunction with Laois County Council, has worked with local businesses “to instil some age-friendly parking spaces in Portlaoise, with more to come in Portarlington, Mountmellick, Rathdowney and Abbeyleix in the coming months”.
He also said that the alliance, along with other state agencies, has devised an information guide on services to older people, “which were snapped up when published”.
Mr Brennan said that it was now hoped the alliance would begin a ‘walkability’ study before the end of the year in larger towns in Laois to “assess the practical and social perspectives in navigating the streetscape and the positive and negative elements of this”.
He went on to thank the businesses who have signed up to the Age Friendly Business Recognition Programme.