Silver-Green: How to Make New Buildings Age-Appropriate

reverse mortgage newsWe’ve explored in detail the extensive services that are blooming along with the aging Boomer population, from medical alert systems in the event of falls or other incidents requiring immediate assistance, to identity theft protection and travel security.

However, one area in which “gerontechnology” still lags is buildings themselves. We touched on this topic in a post that described a supposedly state-of-the-art senior center, just completed at the close of 2013, which offers every imaginable type of class, a free lending library, a coffee lounge, an elevator, and eight restrooms (four for each gender, at opposite ends of a long hallway on each of two floors) — with exterior doors made of such heavy wood that on several occasions older women became trapped inside and had to scream for help. Now these doors remain stoppered open every day — until a senior closes one, wanting privacy. A bit of a conundrum.

While businesses are eager to jump aboard the green bandwagon and showcase how environmentally friendly their building is, the same can’t yet be said for the silver side of the equation, as this New York Times opinion piece makes clear. “Green architecture is good for the environment; silver architecture is good for humans,” writes Louise Aronson. “Some might say that buildings can’t cater to every group with special needs. But silver architecture and design aren’t about indulging a special interest group. They’re about maximizing quality of life and independence for a life stage most of us will reach.”

Even if much of your business is conducted remotely, it’s important to have a senior-friendly office for those people who wish to meet with you in person. Below are some suggestions for ways to ensure your reverse mortgage clients and prospects feel welcome from the moment they drive up to your office. A few of these “age appropriate” ideas may not be within your direct capability to effect, though you can start the ball rolling in the right direction, and look for these features if you move your business to a new location:

  • Parking near your office door. People who are not disabled may still have mobility issues, moving more slowly due to age. Close parking is especially important in inclement weather.
  • An elevator, if your office is not on street level.
  • Exterior doors that open automatically, or, if that’s not possible, doors that are lightweight and easy to open with levers, not doorknobs.
  • Walker and wheelchair accessibility.
  • Clearly marked door thresholds.
  • Handrails on stairs.
  • Non-skid floors or flat carpeting; no area rugs, no shag.
  • Good lighting.
  • Comfortable chairs that are easy for an older person to get in and out of, ideally with armrests and cushioned seats.
  • Clean, well-stocked, easily navigable restrooms.
  • Filtered water, coffee, tea, and possibly some healthy, easy to chew protein snacks.

Your reverse mortgage clients may not comment on your office design, but they will certainly appreciate being able to visit a business that provides an “age appropriate” setting!


The_Critic February 24, 2015 at 11:48 am

In this day and age it is also not a bad idea to have something like orange juice available for those with blood sugar issues.

I am glad you printed the list for our offices. It made me rethink what I can do to make our customers remember their reverse mortgage experience rather than the inadequacies of our office.

Amara Rose February 24, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Hi The_Critic,

Offering orange juice is a good idea, though you’ll need to keep an eye on expiration dates.

I’m glad you found this post helpful. Sometimes seemingly inconsequential things are a deciding factor, especially with elders — and they are unlikely to tell you that your office itself is the culprit!

Dick Diamond March 2, 2015 at 12:31 pm

All of these are great reminders of ways we can make it easier for Seniors. One additional way is to have a simple map you can send them both via email and snail mail. Many older Seniors do not rely on GPS.

Amara Rose March 2, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Hi Dick,

What a great idea! You always come up with the missing pieces ~ I so appreciate your thoroughness and deep commitment to senior service!


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