Don’t point Neil and Glenna Misewich towards the ATM or other automated technologies if you want their patronage.
The longtime Walnut Grove residents say as seniors, what matters to them is the ability to get service and help from actual humans, not machines.
The couple were among several local seniors who took part in the Township’s Age-Friendly Business pilot program recently.
The senior survey participants and three age-friendly businesses were recognized at a gathering last Wednesday to mark the culmination of the project.
“Those businesses have worked hard to ensure that their businesses recognize where they need to do better, what they can make it an area where everyone feels welcome,” said Township Mayor Jack Froese.
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The Misewichs were volunteering at Food and Friends when a Township representative asked if they would participate in the survey.
They know what they want when it comes to dealing with business.
“One that goes a little above and beyond,” Glenna said. “I always feel that if you do go a little above and beyond, it makes that person happy and makes yourself feel good, that you’ve done something really good.”
They’ve lived in Walnut Grove for 37 years and their perspective on dealing with businesses has changed as they’ve aged.
“We like more of service, people taking care of you,” Neil said. “…You get to the point where you want to make sure you’re taken care of.”
Neil is diabetic so when they were planning on travelling for instance, the agent made sure all their medical insurance was kept up to date and that the resort they were booking into had the amenities they needed, such as a small fridge for insulin.
“We’re not internet friendly,” he said. “…It’s nice to go into a business where they take care of all [needs].”
Technology can’t replace “someone knowledgeable in that industry.”
Last year, the Township initiated an Age-friendly Business Recognition Program to acknowledge local businesses that have made a commitment to age-friendly business practices and serving customers of all ages and abilities with dignity and respect.
Walnut Grove’s high proportion of seniors made it the first choice for the Township’s program roll-out.
“We wanted to do this in Walnut Grove as a pilot,” explained Navneet Chattha, the Township’s economic development co-ordinator.
The plan is to take the feedback from the pilot program to make improvements and expand it to other Langley Township neighbourhoods.
The Misewichs are helping spread the word about the program any chance they get, including as they take part in their many volunteer activities such as delivering food for Meals on Wheels and filling Healthy Living Bags with fresh produce at the Timms Community Centre.
In addition to the senior residents who provided feedback on the program, the public was able to nominate age-friendly businesses. Then, during the summer, nominated businesses were contacted by Township staff and encouraged to complete a full criteria assessment. Successful businesses received a Township Age-Friendly Business Recognition Certificate.
Three businesses received certificates at last Thursday’s gathering, including Walnut Grove Cruise and Travel, Save-On Foods Walnut Grove, and the IGA in Walnut Grove.
“It’s important to us, after 26 years of being in the community, to support our seniors, to support our community,” said Walnut Grove Cruise and Travel’s Jesse Eberts said.
Many businesses assume that renting into a building that was approved for construction means it meets accessible or age-friendly.
“To be honest, I never really thought about the accessibility of people,” he said. “When we were brought up with the Township of Langley, that little light bulb [went on], and made me take a look and see that we were properly set up to allow people with walkers to wheelchairs, every age, every demographic, to feel more included in the community and [experience] less barriers for them.”
Eberts said it was simple to take part and not a huge cost. The Township did an assessment and the business qualified but he said he’s added a few minor amenities to make it more age-friendly, such as a cane holder.