10 Great Examples of Major Companies Going Age-Friendly

Two authoritative publications have carried articles explaining the opportunities for businesses who meet the needs of ageing consumers. While US-centric, this should be another wake-up call to companies everywhere.

The NYT/International Herald Tribune article titled: “In a Graying Population, Business Opportunity”, talks about MIT’s Agelab and mentions the the Global Coalition on Aging formed last month by a group including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson and Aegon, to help governments and industries better handle the age boom.

“Companies are starting to think about how they can be age friendly much the same way they have been thinking about how they could be environmentally friendly over the last couple of decades,” says Andy Sieg, the head of retirement services at Bank of America.

The Wall Street Journal article “Marketers Discreetly Retool for Aging Boomers” includes a video:

The article also covers a number of good cases of ‘age-friendliness’ including:

businesses that are “Surreptitiously, making typefaces larger, lowering store shelves to make them more accessible and avoiding yellows and blues in packaging-two colors that don’t appear as sharply distinct to older eyes”.

  • Invesco Van Kampen Consulting, an arm of Invesco Ltd., suggests financial advisers offer coffee cups with handles instead of Styrofoam (easier to hold), use lamps instead of overhead lights (less glare), and turn off the television when clients visit (background noise hampers hearing), says Scott West, a managing director.
  • ADT, owned by Tyco International Ltd., is marketing its medical-alert system to aging consumers as “Companion Services.”
  • Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Depend brand, widely considered adult diapers in the past, has had a makeover in a new TV ad: “Looks and fits like underwear. Protects like nothing else.” Kimberly-Clark spent two years overhauling its Depend brand, anticipating boomers would demand changes to the image and design of a line long considered too diaper-like and institutional. By 2020, Kimberly-Clark expects 45 million boomers will need incontinence products, up from 38 million currently. JPEGIn an effort to modernize its designs, Depend has introduced gender-specific versions and briefs with fashionable prints that imitate regular underwear. Some Depend packaging is labeled “underwear” and disguised to look like packs of cloth underwear, including transparent windows that show Depend undergarments folded just like regular briefs. The smaller packs hang on hooks instead of stacked on shelves like diapers.
  • Bathroom-fixture maker Kohler Co. struggled to come up with a more palatable word for “grab bar,” which boomers resist. It introduced the “Belay” shower handrail-named for the rock-climbing technique-which blends subtly into the wall of a tiled shower.
  • Kleenex recently redesigned its boxes to have fewer floral bouquets and more contemporary designs, photos and the latest hues. In the basement of a nondescript office building in Appleton, Wis., Kimberly-Clark has built a mockup of what it thinks a senior-friendly store aisle might look like in the future. The company believes it’s crucial to overhaul these aisles or boomers will resist going into what had been considered an “old person’s” section of the store. The mock store aisles pair incontinence products and other personal-care items not associated solely with senior citizens, such as body washes and razors so boomers don’t feel like they are in an age-specific section of the store.
  • Sherwin-Williams, mindful of boomers’ sensitivity about aging and not wanting to limit its customer base to one demographic, has subtly redesigned its 3,400 stores to make them more comfortable to older browsers. They now have more lighting and seating and serve coffee in most locations. Product displays feature less fine print, hence fewer squinting shoppers. The company believes the subtle changes will be appreciated by all age groups, including younger shoppers.
  • Arm & Hammer began sharpening the color contrast for the text and gradually increasing the font size after noticing older shoppers struggling to read its cat-litter packaging, which is now about 20% bigger than it was five years ago.JPEG
  • Diamond Foods Inc. carefully engineered the packaging of its Emerald snack nut line to accommodate the declining agility of baby boomers’ hands. But no such boast appears anywhere on the green plastic canisters. Diamond, which long sold nuts for baking, finalized plans to enter the snack nut category after research found doctors were advising boomers to incorporate nuts into healthy eating plans. To differentiate their product from entrenched competitors, Emerald executives focused on making their packages easy to use. Indented sides make the canisters comfortable to hold, and grooves make the lids easier to grip. After noticing that arthritic users struggled to twist the cap into place, Emerald shortened the required rotation. Emerald, introduced in 2004, now has about 6% of the $3 billion U.S. snack nut category, or about $193 million in sales, according to 2009 estimates by market-research firm Euromonitor International Inc.
  • CVS Caremark Corp. has retrofitted stores with carpeting to reduce slipping. Shelves have been lowered to 60 inches, from 72 inches, and signs no longer have plaster windows, allowing more natural light in stores to improve visibility. Wherever possible, curbs are eliminated from store entrances, and existing curbs are painted yellow to heighten awareness.
  • Walgreen Co. has been gradually adapting its 7,655 stores to be more friendly to aging boomers over the past two years. Subtle changes make it easier to navigate stores. Many stores have positioned magnifying glasses in aisles that carry products like household cleaners, hair color and cold medicine that use lots of fine print. Reading glasses are getting snazzier, too, now that the chain updates styles more frequently. Walgreen has introduced easier-to-open packages on its private-label painkillers and incontinence products, and expanded its vitamin aisles.

Each of these ‘improvements’ would become evident through our globally unique SilverAuditTM process. Moreover, it is crucial to note that a change to any element of the customer journey without understanding the effets of ageing at each step of the way, will only provide limited solutions to the challenge of becoming truly ‘age-friendly’.


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