Salem is a welcoming and inclusive place, and the efforts of the Salem for All Ages initiative is helping to strengthen those values. The work of the initiative has been guided since 2016 by the Salem for All Ages Action Plan and a critical part of that plan is a focus on social inclusion.

Earlier this year the initiative launched the Age-Friendly Business certification as a step toward better integrating older residents of all backgrounds into the vibrant life of Salem’s economy in a meaningful way.

An age-friendly business is one in which people of all ages and abilities can comfortably shop, dine or receive services. These businesses intentionally act to make their spaces and their operations more inclusive for customers and patrons of all ages and abilities.

In an age-friendly business, staff are respectful, patient and well-trained to interact with all individuals. These businesses provide resting areas, non-slip flooring and other physical attributes to ensure all individuals are comfortable in the business. They use universal symbols, clear and readable typefaces, and other features in printed or digital materials. Finally, some age-friendly businesses will even offer discounts or special programs specifically for older adults.

Nearly 57% of consumer spending in Massachusetts is by people 50 years old or older, amounting to over $150 billion each year. Here in Salem, around 8,000 residents are over the age of 60 and that number is expected to climb to 12,000 by 2030. And 47% of visitors to Salem included at least one member of their party age 55 or older. Older adults tend to patronize businesses earlier in the day and are likely to be extremely loyal customers.

In addition, modifications and actions taken to make a business age-friendly have the ancillary benefit of also making them more welcoming to many other individuals, from parents with strollers to individuals with disabilities.

Becoming a certified Age-Friendly Business is a great, free way for Salem businesses to connect with these customers. As a certified business, the establishment is listed on the Salem for All Ages website and in the Salem for All Ages Resource Guide, mailed monthly to residents when they turn 65 years old. The business also has the opportunity to be featured on the Salem for All Ages social media channels and will receive a special decal to place in their business window to show that the business is certified as age-friendly.

All of these steps increase the potential customer base and repeat customers, as well as boost customer numbers during the traditionally less busy times of day, which is when seniors tend to do business.

To become a certified Age-Friendly Business in Salem, businesses should follow these three steps:

1. Complete the application form at https://salemforallages.org/age-friendly-business/. Only businesses located in Salem may apply.

2. Someone from the Salem for All Ages Task Force will schedule a time to meet with you at your business and go through the Age-Friendly Business checklist available on the website.

3. You or an employee must participate in a training on working with older adult customers. These trainings take place a few times each year and are held at City Hall Annex.

Once these steps are completed you will receive the Salem Age-Friendly Business window decal and your business will be listed on the initiative’s website and in the resource guide.

The process to be a certified Age-Friendly Business in Salem is simple and free. Not only does it ensure that a business is meeting important standards to guarantee accessibility and inclusiveness for all patrons, it also helps further Salem’s standing as a welcoming community for all.

Dominick Pangallo is co-chair of the Salem for All Ages Task Force.