Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Making Commercial Districts Age-Friendly

Seniors comprise a growing segment of the population and can be great assets to businesses. As a BID manager pointed out during last week’s IDA panel Making Commercial Districts Age Friendly: “Seniors are the most loyal customers”.

In fact, as part of the Age-Friendly NYC, a citywide initiative promoted by the NY Academy of Medicine, NYC Office of the Mayor and New York City Council, a number of local BIDs began incorporating age-friendly measures to make their districts more welcoming to their increasing number of seniors. Three BIDs, Bed-Stuy Gateway, Westchester Square and Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership, shared their approaches with the audience including:

Discount for seniors, which can take many forms such as a percent discount just for this age group, or a percent discount on products and services targeted for them (which has shown to be a popular alternative in districts where older adults don’t want to be labeled as seniors).

Source: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership

Installation of additional seating throughout the district to provide resting opportunities for seniors and people with walking difficulties.  The installation of benches in front of businesses had also a positive outcome to business owners: one dry-cleaner reported a 20% increase in sales after a bench was installed in front of its store.

Source: Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership 

A tour of new businesses: one district created a special tour to introduce local seniors to new business with targeted services and programming and was very successful.

Senior Resource Guide: includes a map showing businesses with services designed specifically for seniors, many of whom lack the computer skills to find this information online.

And many of these approaches were actually developed by local seniors themselves through a of series community engagement events, as in the case of Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn.  

Finally,  it’s important to note that many of the measures to make districts friendlier to seniors are also great for other age-groups, including children and mothers with infants (that have to move around with baby carriers and strollers). So more points for this initiative: an age-friendly district is welcoming to seniors and other age groups alike.

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