Local Authorities are signing up and laying out plans to make their Community as Age Friendly as possible in all aspects of life.
They can change what they control, but the key thing is to campaign and persuade everyone to adopt the idea, including Services, Retailers, etc.
Most Businesses do not intend to be unfriendly to older people. They just haven’t thought about it. But they are going to have to aren’t they? We are their new and growing market!
Maybe we should be challenging Unthinking Ageism wherever we find it?
So what does it look like? Let’s start with a Restaurant.
Imagine you are going out for a meal with friends.
A cafe bar, serving food. It is in a basement. Steep stairs with no handrail. Inside dimly lit, full of happy diners mostly in celebratory groups and young. You begin to feel that if you aren’t wearing bunny ears you might not be admitted. Music of course, combined with a low ceiling and the delighted Instagram squeals and you start to think some law on noise must be being broken.
The place is Ageist. Deliberately so. Their market is these lovely young groups. Many pubs and restaurants are designed like this. At 70 + , you open the door and very likely turn straight round. It is a specific market and, providing it was made clear if you were booking, they can decide to position themselves as they choose and you too can make your choice….
(For fun, a group of us Oldies, who were at a Conference, went into one for a drink. Not all together, but six at a time, starting around 7pm, and continuing til 10pm. Not turned away, but the Manager’s face as the last two groups entered was wonderful to see. Shock! Almost fear. What on earth was happening to his carefully created image!!).
A restaurant serving good food in a quiet atmosphere. You can actually have a conversation! The entrance is easily accessible and the toilet is not up two floors. It could be quite stylish, or maybe just a nice tea shop, but Older people will probably go in.
This place is Age Friendly Although they may not have thought about it. Just nice people, happy to serve everyone and making it a comfortable setting for anyone. Sadly, not too many are like this by design.
A restaurant which has good food, but has not thought through the full range of it’s potential customers. It will have high chairs for children and probably colouring books, but little recognition of what would be good for older people.
This place is Unthinkingly Ageist. And many of them! So many, that older people now tell me they no longer feel able to go for a meal with friends.
Alienating THEIR growing market!
What has happened?
Noise! Style and fashion have removed all soft furnishings. Noisy coffee machines have moved in. And Open Kitchens…….!! And no one has thought to bring in an acoustic expert to advise! They have created restaurants where no one can have a conversation without shouting. 😱😡👎🏼
For virtually all us Oldies this is a problem. Most of us have lost hearing, not deaf, just certain sharp frequencies. Hearing aids, yes. But they are intended to magnify sharp frequencies. And boy do they! Every kitchen clatter, loud chatter, cutlery, plates, chinking glasses all become a painful cacophony. Turn aid off, and we have to sit and smile vaguely, gesturing our news. Good food or not, it isn’t worth it. Eat at home.
Music! Three problems here. Volume, choice, and no way to escape it. You ask for a quiet table. Away from the music? Or Is it possible for that one speaker above your table to be turned off. No. “Sorry, but it’s all one system” Could they turn it off completely? Shocked look ” But it’s for the customers! We aren’t allowed” Maybe turn it down? Couples at surrounding tables smile their agreement and thanks. Young waiters not too happy and slowly creep it up again. It is their music choice and they like the volume.
How about a quiet zone? Or even quiet evenings we can book for?🙏😀💐
Chairs! High seats and stools are not for hip replacements and dodgy knees. And solid oak chairs, however stylish, do not make for a comfortable chat session. 😩 😢
Menus! Dim lights may be romantic, all for that, but combine with elegant silver-grey small print and we have to have it read to us. Or use a smart phone torch.🔦🔎
And that long ” Specials” or “Dessert” list read out by a charming soft voiced youngster. Can’t hear a word at our end of the table. Worse, by the time they have finished our short term memory ensures we have to ask for it to be repeated. Probably three times. We feel stupid, they begin to feel impatient. Could you print them please?
I expect you can add to the list. (The vital subject of toilets needed a separate blog!)
Why havent they thought of these things? Because until you are old, it is very difficult to imagine what being old is like. They need to know. We need to tell them.
So where do we go with these definitions?
Age Friendly Places have two key elements, the Social and the Physical that we need Businesses to check on.
Social is about feeling respect, acceptance, empathy, and comfort in being there. Plus the opportunity to socialise easily.
Physical is that someone has thought through, even asked, what makes a place easy for people as they begin to hit the very normal problems of older years, as Everyone will. It makes sense for us to help ‘our ‘favourite’ places to understand what is needed and ensure that they keep us, the growing demographic market.
Deliberate Ageism we can accept or must attack depending on the acceptability of the reason.
Unthinking Ageism needs education and persuasion.
Maybe a campaign, by us?
A suggestion: Could we Oldies start to award Age Friendly stickers to all places and services that deserve them? Who can judge better? 👵🏼🤔👏🏼👍😄
* PS Delighted to hear since this was written that in the state of Oregon in the United States a group known as Elders in Action has an official age-friendly certification program. You can read about it here:
And check on the #NoGoNoisyRestaurants. This problem affect many.
This is the first of a series of blogs about this topic. Look out for Housing, Museums, Shops, Hotels, High Streets….the Countryside!
Anywhere can be Unwittingly, Unthinkingly Ageist..tell them!
For many oldies the question is: Are the restaurants wheelchair accessible? And is there room to park the wheelchair at the table? Here in Malaysia taking a wheelchair-bound friend out to launch requires some advance scouting.
Thanks. Good to hear! May I use your comment in a tweet?
Very good post- I have noticed now that some of our local 2-story restaurants are asking when you book if you “can do stairs”. It’s a start!
The places you describe are also unfriendly for the disabled who are not necessarily old. Parking is another issue for those with limited mobility. Restaurants should promote their “universal accessibility” more, because it does take some research if they don’t tell us that they have it.
Thanks Maddy. I like the Universally accessible term.
Any chance you could retweet + a shortened version of this comment?
In the state of Oregon in the United States a group known as Elders in Action has an official age-friendly certification program. You can read about it here:
Thank you! Delighted to hear it. Great example. Will refer to it now in the blog.
Great article. And not just the elderly. I think most people over 40 want comfortable seats and a conversational atmosphere. I remember a group of us from work going to a restaurant for a celebration meal. Music was so loud it was impossible to talk to anybody but the person sitting immediately next to you – and even then only by shouting in their ear. Eventually, after several requests, the young staff turned the music down. 10 mins later, it was turned up again. Needless to say, we never went back again. A couple of years later, the place closed down.
It seems that almost everyone I meet is saying this! Have begun to go up to other customers in Restaurants and asking them whether they would like the noise lower. Always say yes! And young staff always look surprised.
How do we get the message out?
Here it is, 2022, and things haven’t changed. At my last hotel stay, this elderly fellow came in on his knee scooter, (oh, did I mention he only had one arm?). Looking around, he saw he’d be totally unable to serve himself and left. I’m still kicking myself for not jumping up, grabbing my walker and going to help him.