By Katie Gaetjens MSW,JD Retired; Elders in Action Volunteer
Orginally published in the Oregon State Bar Elder Law Newsletter July, 2011
As an elder law attorney, you have chosen to focus your practice on serving the needs of elderly clients. But is your office truly “elder friendly?”
Elders in Action, a non-profit focused on advocacy and education to assure that “quality of life does not depend on age,” has developed an evaluation program to help you assess whether your practice is meeting the needs of your clients beyond providing legal counsel.
The Elder Friendly® business certification program covers Clackamas, Multnomah, Washington counties in Oregon and Clark County, Washington. The program has been in existence since 1993 and has continued to evolve and adapt to changes in technology and the marketplace.
The goal of Elders in Action is to work with businesses to make their offices a more welcome place for older adults. Volunteer evaluators attend a half-day training session and use an online survey tool that was developed by older adults through focus groups and a gerontology specialist who identified the needs of the older consumer.
How the process works
The original certification involves three or four volunteer evaluators who contact and visit the business. The four main areas of focus are:
- Access to the Site By Phone (able to find, answering, information provided)
- Physical Access to the Site (parking, public transportation, restrooms,)
- Layout of the Site (lighting, flooring, ability to move around, seating)
- Customer Service (communication, clarity of information)
Participating businesses receive a summary report presented by an Elders in Action staff person and a volunteer evaluator. The report includes an overview of the evaluations, recommendations for potential changes or improvements, and specific comments from the evaluators. Every evaluation is confidential and is an opportunity to learn how an older adult sees your office.
In addition, a Web site evaluation is done to provide feedback on the site from the point of view of an older adult.
Once your practice is certified you will receive an Elder Friendly® Business decal to display at your office as well as links to graphics that you can use on your website and printed materials.
A follow up evaluation is done for recertification with a smaller number of evaluators
Why does certification matter?
First, obtaining certification assures that as an elder law practitioner you have done everything you can to make your clients’ experience with you comfortable and stress free. Seeking legal counsel can be intimidating for anyone at any age; it can be especially stressful for elderly people who may have to contend with additional obstacles such as mobility, vision, or hearing issues. You can help minimize these issues.
Second, obtaining certification entitles you to be listed in the Elders in Action Elder Friendly® Business Directory, both in hard copy and online. As this program grows we receive calls from an ever-increasing number of elderly people looking for referrals for a variety of services, including legal services. We emphasize when making referrals that we are not endorsing the quality of service, but rather the access and customer service provided by a given business. Knowing that an office is certified as Elder Friendly provides a level of confidence that they will be treated well, respected, and feel comfortable in the business.
Finally, we receive feedback from people who have used referrals from our directory: often compliments and sometimes challenges they have encountered. We in turn pass this information on to certified businesses so they can address any issues that can be remedied so that their next client is met with the best service possible. This can be valuable feedback for organizations.
What does certification cost?
The initial cost is $300 for businesses with fewer than 50 employees. The annual renewal fees are $200.
How do I obtain more information or begin the process?
To be included in the printed 2012 Elder Friendly Business Directory you must start the certification process by September 15. Contact Joan@eldersinaction.org or call 503.235.5474. For more information about our organization go to www.EldersinAction.org