Disability Implications of an Aging Population

John Krautzel
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David Bloom of "Harvard Business Review" reports that 20 percent of the American population will be at least 65 years of age by 2050. This means seniors will make up a greater portion of the customer base for many businesses. Because older consumers have different needs than younger ones, your company will need to adjust its marketing and customer service strategies to accommodate them. One issue you will have to deal with is making your products and services accessible to those who have age-related disabilities. You may also have to assist older employees who develop physical and cognitive disabilities as they age.


If you manage seniors in the workforce, you need to be concerned about complying with age discrimination laws and ensuring that your workplace is accessible to workers with disabilities. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act prohibits employers from discriminating against any applicant or employee because of his age. This means you cannot hire, compensate, or terminate employees based on their ages. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on the existence of a physical or mental disability that limits a person's ability to perform one or more life activities. The act also applies to people who have a history of disability and those who are perceived to have disabilities.


The Americans with Disabilities Act is also important for business owners and managers, as it was introduced to give people with disabilities the opportunity to purchase goods and services and participate in government programs without discrimination. When seniors make up a good portion of your target market, there are several disability issues to consider. If you use a website to promote your products or services, the site must be accessible to seniors with vision loss or other visual impairments. You should instruct your website designer to use a sans serif font such as Arial or Helvetica. If you use a light background, use dark graphics and text. One study showed that almost all websites have some room for improvement when it comes to accessibility for those with visual impairments, so be sure to pay attention to this issue when building your site.


Those who manage brick-and-mortar locations also have to think about physical accessibility when working with seniors. You'll need to ensure that your business is accessible to customers who use canes, walkers, or wheelchairs. Wide doorways and low countertops will make it easier for seniors who use wheelchairs to patronize your business. Your parking lot should have several handicapped parking spaces to make it easier for people with disabilities to enter and exit your store. If customers will be reading from a service list or menu, consider providing Braille versions of these documents. Make it easy for older consumers to do business with you by making sure your physical location is well lit and free of obstacles.


Whether you are hiring senior citizens or providing products and services to aging consumers, it is your responsibility to make sure your business is as accessible as possible to seniors with disabilities. Making it easier for people to use your website or visit your physical location could also give you an advantage over some of your competitors, making it a smart business move.


(Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic / freedigitalphotos.net)


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