SALEM — Five businesses in Salem have been the first in the area to earn age-friendly certification from the Salem for All Ages task force.
Eastern Bank on Washington Street, the Hawthorne Hotel, The Merchant Hotel, The Salem Center for Past Life Regression, and Salem Spice/The Branch Olive Oil Company were certified, and two more businesses are in the process of qualifying.
"We spend a lot of time on how you speak to guests of different age groups. The hotel has always been encouraging an age friendly environment," said Claire Kallelis, general manager of the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem.
Kallelis explained that the Hawthorne Hotel wanted to be a part of this program right away due to the fact that their mission has been built on serving people of all ages.
The bathrooms are handicap friendly and there are many signs to help direct people throughout the hotel.
Due to previous additions for handicap accessibility, the Hawthorne Hotel was already ahead and right on track to be a part of the Age Initiative Program. After going through an interview process and looking at options to add to their age-friendly environment, they were certified.
"We have been doing for this for decades. We have the same philosophy to encourage the entire community to visit us. This is something I think all businesses should be involved in" said Kallelis.
As a part of the certification process, staff members have to go through training to be respectful and patient, particularly in dealing with older or disabled customers. Businesses also must provide resting areas, have non-slip flooring and other amenities that makes it safer and easier for older adults, such as clear and readable typefaces in printed and visual materials.
Some offer discounts or special programs for older adults.
Businesses need to follow three steps to become certified. First, they must complete and submit the application. Next, they meet with a member of the Salem for All Ages task force and to show that they have satisfied all the requirements on a safety checklist. Finally, an employee is selected to participate in a 45-minute training on working with older adult customers twice per year.
“From the businesses' perspective, it’s a way for them to demonstrate to customers that their business is welcoming open and accessible,” said Dominick Pangallo, chief of staff for Mayor Kim Driscoll.
The business certification program is one of a number of initiatives in the city's Age-Friendly Action Plan, which was certified by AARP and the World Health Organization. Salem was one of the first communities in the state to have a plan certified.
Driscoll thanked the businesses for going through the process.
“By signaling that they are open and accessible to customers of all ages and abilities," she said, "they are reaffirming our city and our business community’s shared commitment to making Salem a place that welcomes all.”