How Sensory-Friendly Is Also Senior-Friendly

Did you know that a sensory-friendly event or location is also senior-friendly? Make a few sensory-friendly changes and your business or organization is also welcoming to older adults and seniors. In fact, being sensory-friendly welcomes people of all ages!

What is Sensory-Friendly?

Sensory-friendly changes make the experience at your event or location pleasant for the senses. This includes all of the 8 senses. Typically, these changes make it more accessible for those with sensory processing disorder. Or simply for people with greater sensitivities. Additionally, many of the changes require little to no financial investment.

Many of these changes are helpful for older adults. Learn about common sensory-friendly changes and how they help seniors, too:

Change lighting

A common change to make your event or location sensory-friendly and senior-friendly is to adjust the lighting. Older adults and seniors, in fact people of any age, may be sensitive to bright lights. You may see people wearing sunglasses indoors. Some people have sensory sensitivity to light. Therefore, an easy way to make an event or location is to eliminate fluorescent lights. As well, remove flashing lights, or shimmering lights, too. Alternatively, you can create special sensory-friendly hours when those types of lights are turned off.

Similarly, older adults and seniors prefer high-quality lighting and good lighting. Use natural light and sunlight through windows. But eliminate glare with shades. Ensure all areas are well-lit. Make sure there are no dark spaces or dimly lit areas.

Reduce noise

Another common way to make your event or location sensory-friendly and senior-friendly is to reduce noise. For instance, many stores, malls or offices play background music. Or have equipment onsite that makes noise. Many people are sensitive to noise. According to the World Health Organization, more than 20% of the population has hearing loss that impacts their daily life 1. That is a lot of people!

Likewise, many seniors prefer quiet events and locations. Older adults are more likely to experience hearing loss, too. Additionally, it is important to know that hearing aids do not solve the problem. Background noises can make it even more difficult for older adults to hear. Ultimately, this can make seniors feel overwhelmed and un-welcomed.

Older adult couple sitting in movie theatre.

Limit crowds

Many stores offer sensory-friendly or autism hours for people with sensory differences. During these special shopping times, many stores will adjust the lighting and sound accordingly to make it sensory-friendly. They also limit the number of people within a store. That creates a calmer environment.

Senior shopping hours are also more common. At the onset of COVID-19, many essential businesses began to offer times of the day dedicated for older adults to shop. Many businesses continue special shopping hours for seniors today. Similar to the benefits of shopping hours for people with sensory sensitivities, older adults prefer shopping with fewer crowds. For people with any mobility difficulty, navigating a busy store can be stressful. Therefore, offering special hours is helpful and appreciated by many seniors.

Senior-friendly quote that says, "Sensory-friendly changes help people of all ages. Regardless of whether or not you have a sensory challenge."

Train staff

Many stores that offer sensory-friendly hours have staff on duty that understand how to best serve clients and customers who need extra help. Help your staff understand sensory sensitivity and sensory overload, to create a more positive shopping experience your customers.  

Other simple changes help. For example, provide colour-coded shopping carts or baskets. E.g. red means no help wanted, green means please offer help. Shoppers can choose a shopping cart based on whether they want help offered or not. Additionally, seniors may have difficulty loading their purchases into their car. Have dedicated staff to assist seniors when they leave the store.

Make Your Event and Location Inclusive with Training

Add quiet spaces

For seniors, having a quiet space to go to in a sensory-rich event or location, makes it more senior-friendly. Oftentimes, these spaces will a variety of comfortable seating, too. Importantly, these areas are designated to be quiet.

Likewise, simply adding extra seats throughout an event or location is helpful. Older adults appreciate a spot to sit and rest. It helps them stay longer (and maybe even shop more!)

Sensory-friendly changes help people of all ages. Regardless of whether or not you have a sensory challenge. Sensory-friendly changes are particularly helpful to make an event or location senior-friendly, too. For more information on sensory-friendly solutions for seniors with sensitivities, check out Visiting Angel’s blog post.

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  1. World Health Organization. (2019). Deafness and Hearing Loss.
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