Leeds businesses urged to join Age Friendly scheme as lockdown eases

Businesses in Leeds are being encouraged to play their part in helping older customers to get back out into society by signing up to a city-wide scheme.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 11:45 am

Launched in January 2020, the free Age and Dementia Friendly Business scheme promotes shops, hospitality venues and all kinds of companies that have shown a commitment to meeting the needs of older people.

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Rachel Cooper, chief executive of Leeds Older People's Forum (LOPF), said: "We want to recruit 50 businesses at least to be Age Friendly. We think that’s one of the ways that the recovery phase could be supported.

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Rachel Cooper, chief executive of Leeds Older People's Forum. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

"Older people as a group spend quite a lot in the local economy. By making some adjustments, that could increase trade for some businesses and at the same time give older people the opportunity to get out of their home.

"Typically it can involve things like training and offering for older people to be able to come and take a seat without purchasing something every time."

Time to Shine - a LOPF programme led by older people - worked in partnership with Age Friendly Leeds to create a guide for participating businesses.

It includes a checklist to help businesses look at their physical environment, the way their staff engage with customers and how the business communicates with them.

Age UK, which has a number of charity shops in the city, was the first organisation to sign up to the scheme, with other supporters including Harehills cafe ToastLoveCoffee.

Based in Harehills Road, the 'pay as you feel' cafe counts older people among its volunteers and has given its volunteer customer hosts training in conversation skills.

Natalie Tharraleos, the cafe's outreach worker and volunteer coordinator, said they had seen numerous benefits of reaching out to older people, adding: "Actively welcoming and involving them, their knowledge of the community, and their wealth of life and work experience, only enriches our organisation.”

With the prospect of non-essential retailers being able to welcome back customers from April 12, an additional guide has been created for retailers to help them with their planning.

It sets out simple, practical actions that older people have said will help them to go out with confidence after many have been shielding for a year.

Ms Cooper said: "When things start opening up but we’re still at a point where measures are in place, older people in particular are going to want to make sure there are opportunity for social distancing, opportunities for paying in cash, offering quieter browsing hours. It’s thoughtfulness and kindness in action."

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