The Fountain of Old Age

An article in the New York Times asks, “Now that the oldest baby boomers are turning 65, their sheer numbers may attract industries that had earlier shied away.

”  Ken Dychtwald, CEO of AgeWave, a research and consulting organization that focuses on population aging….has been trying to rebrand aging as a positive phenomenon. 

Back on July 13, 2006, I wrote:

The U.S. population age 65 and over is expected to double in the next 25 years.  By 2030 almost one out of five Americans (some 72 million people) will be 65 years or older.  The age group 85 and older is now the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population.

Many prefer rooms with two beds and they often prefer locations on the low floors near an elevator.  Safety and security are concerns, so in-room sprinklers and smoke detectors can be a strong selling point.  More than other travelers, older guests enjoy public areas where they can gather to talk and socialize.  Such rooms should generally be separate from the cocktail lounge.

Groups of mature travelers usually enjoy attending some kind of welcoming reception.  You might meet them as they arrive – to explain meal times, hotel facilities and the like – and then offer coffee, lemonade and home-baked goods.  Most older persons also like to participate in organized entertainment after dinner, such as a trip to a local theatre, a sing-along, or a shopping excursion.  Guide services for these activities and for day trips are a plus.

Older Travelers Physical Requirements

Interior design for senior citizens must take into account the elements of hearing loss, diminished vision, lessened color perception, poorer short-term memory and weakened upper body strength.

While experts agree that hotel facilities for seniors should be designed to offset these difficulties, I believe that, in fact, all hotel guests would benefit from the following improvements:

In Guest Rooms

  1. Better lighting at writing table, at bedside, in closet, at TV set,at room entry.
  2. Master electrical switch at bedside to control all room lights.
  3. TV and radio operation instructions that are easy to read, clearin direction, simple to operate and well-lit.
  4. Blackout drapes and/or shades that actually keep light out.
  5. Clear instructions on how to adjust the room temperature.
  6. An alarm clock that is easy to program and read.
  7. Lamp switches at the base of the lamp where they can beeasily seen and reached.
  8. Real clothes hangers in the closet along with irons and ironingboards.
  9. Free Wi-Fi access
  10. Provide a refrigerator and a microwave oven
  11. Automatic in-room sprinklers and fire alarms.

In Bathrooms

  1. Apply good non-skid material to both the bathtub floor and the bathroomfloor.                
  2. Install multiple well-placed and secure hand-holds and grab bars inbathtub/shower/toilet areas.
  3. Make sure the adjustable shower head is easy to adjust and does the job.
  4. Eliminate hot water surges and provide scald-proof hot water.
  5. Provide good lighting over the mirror.
  6. Install night lights which won’t disturb sleeping but will provide safe nighttrips to bathroom.
  7. Provide a UL-approved hair dryer with a wall-hung bracket.
  8. Supply better-quality, more absorbent towels in color.
  9. Make sure all shower curtains are long enough to reach well below thebathtub top.

In Corridors And Elevators

  1. Make certain that corridors are well illuminated, especially over guest room doors to expedite the use of electronic door lock cards.
  2. Exit signs should be installed close to the floor so that they won’t be hidden by rising smoke.
  3. Provide easy-to-read, well designed directional signs.
  4. Elevators should have clear and well-lit floor buttons with “Door Open” buttons easily located.
  5. Elevator door bumpers should retract readily when touched.

Older Travelers’ Needs And Preferences

Older persons often want more personal attention than other guests.  Many travel largely for companionship and need to talk to people of different ages.  Older citizens are a heterogeneous group ranging in age from the mid-50’s to 70, 80 and older.  <> 

Prejudice against the elderly, which is characterized by rude behavior toward older persons is fairly widespread.  Direct-contact hotel personnel must be trained to work with the older traveler.  The staff must be taught how to communicate with persons with weak eyesight or poor hearing or both.  The cleanliness of rooms and of public areas is especially important to mature travelers.

The face of aging in the United States is changing dramatically and rapidly, according to a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau.  Today’s older Americans are very different from their predecessors, living longer, having lower rates of disability, achieving higher levels of education and less often living in poverty.  In fact, recent demographic estimates indicate that seniors comprise 47% of the leisure travel market or 144 million room nights per year.  Today’s seniors are relatively active, healthy and young at heart.  They control half of the nation’s discretionary income and are America’s fastest growing age group.  The U.S. Federal Reserve Board reports that the over-50 age group now controls 77% of the nation’s financial holdings worth about $800 billion; represents about 35% of the total U.S. population and accounts for 42% of after-tax income.

About the author: Stanley Turkel, MHS, ISHC operates his hotel consulting office as a sole practitioner specializing in franchising issues, asset management and litigation support services. Turkel’s clients are hotel owners and franchisees, investors and lending institutions. Turkel serves on the Board of Advisors and lectures at the NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management. My new book is available at reduced rates. Vist

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