Thoughtful consideration is the most important service that business owners can give older customers, members of the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce were told yesterday.
"The treatment a person gets should be at the top of the list," said Jim Cummings, the American Association for Retired Persons' District One director. "The smile you get from the waitress or her kind word will outweigh the poor food you get every time."
Referring to an article from Modern Maturity, the AARP magazine, in which a senior citizen who couldn't read a car loan application was treated rudely, Mr. Cummings said he had a similar experience in a bank in Carroll County.
But purchasing bonds for his grandchildren gave him a more positive experience, Mr. Cummings said.
"When she saw I was having difficulty filling out the form, she said, 'Give it back to me and I'll fill it out,' " Mr. Cummings said of the woman from whom he purchased the bonds. "The difference was, when she saw I had a problem, she filled it out."
Loss of vision and the subsequent loss of mobility are primary concerns for senior citizens, he said.
Floors in the businesses they visit should be level, menus should have large print, lighting should be bright, and stairs and ramps should have handrails, he said.
"I predict that 25 years from now, there will be no stairs in public buildings," Mr. Cummings said. "It's a matter of space. If you have to provide stairs and ramps, why not eliminate the stairs?"
Sales people need to listen to senior citizens' needs and concerns, he said. "You could be the best sales man in the world, but if you don't listen, you have got a problem."
However, Mr. Cummings said, older customers are not much different from younger customers.
"There's a lot less difference between the old and young than there is between any other age group," he said. "We both laugh, cry, bleed when you cut us. And everyone resents being talked down to, whether you are 3 years old or a senior citizen."