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Park Slope Shops Roll Out 'Age-Friendly' Welcome Mat for Older Customers

By Leslie Albrecht | October 24, 2016 2:06pm
 Jasmine Melzer and Joyce Jed of Good Neighbors of Park Slope, one of the groups that helped identify local businesses that are welcoming to seniors.
Jasmine Melzer and Joyce Jed of Good Neighbors of Park Slope, one of the groups that helped identify local businesses that are welcoming to seniors.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

PARK SLOPE — A new “age-friendly Park Slope” initiative launched Monday will highlight local businesses that welcome older shoppers with open arms — or maybe just a place to sit down.

More than 60 small businesses around Park Slope will get bright yellow window decals identifying them as "age-friendly," meaning they offer discounts for seniors, have a bathroom available for older customers, or have a front door that doesn't take superhuman strength to open.

Three groups teamed up to evaluate businesses on their age-friendliness: the senior services nonprofit Heights & Hills, the Park Slope Center for Successful Aging, and Good Neighbors of Park Slope. The effort was funded by City Councilman Brad Lander, and also got help from the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.

Organizers celebrated the initiative's launch Monday morning at the olive oil and vinegar shop O'Live Brooklyn on Fifth Avenue and St. John's Place, one of the age-friendly businesses.

Decals were awarded based on a points system, with businesses earning points for having attributes such as wide aisles, easy-to-read signage, products that are easy to reach, and a host of other attributes.

To mark the start of the initiative this week, several businesses are offering free events, including a salon day at Local Roots, a cooking class at O'Live Brooklyn, a dance class at the Ninth Street YMCA, a painting class at Pinot's Palette, and wine tastings at four age-friendly wine stores. See a full list with details here.

"Sometimes I've felt like seniors in this neighborhood were falling off the page," said Jasmine Melzer, 74, secretary of Good Neighbors of Park Slope.

While school PTAs tend to win fundraising dollars — deservedly so, she said — and new infrastructure such as bike lanes and Citi Bike feel geared toward a younger crowd, the Age-Friendly Park Slope initiative aims to meet the needs of residents who sometimes feel overlooked in a neighborhood teeming with young children, Melzer said.

"We wanted to raise awareness of our needs in this neighborhood because there are so many of us," Melzer said. She added, "Anything that helps us helps mothers with strollers too."

Making senior citizen shoppers feel welcome is also good for businesses' bottom lines, Melzer noted. Nearly half of consumer spending in the city is by adults age 50 and over, representing $70.1 billion a year, she said.

The age-friendly businesses will be listed on a continuously updated website and in paper brochures. Organizers hope to recruit many more stores to sign on, and said they're ready to offer tips to businesses on how to become more comfortable for those customers with many decades of living behind them.

Lander and other advocates said Monday that Age-Friendly Park Slope puts the neighborhood in line with a "global movement" to address the needs of a rapidly aging population.

"It is really true that at this exact moment in time, the world ... has just become aware that it's aging," said Ruth Finkelstein, associate director of Robert N. Butler Columbia Aging Centerat Columbia University. "This is the year that there are more people over 60 than under 15 around the world."

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