Planning an event that is inclusive and accessible for guests of all ages and abilities is incredibly important. However, extra consideration must be given to seniors to ensure their unique needs are met. With large numbers of baby boomers entering their golden years, event accessibility for the elderly has become more crucial than ever before.
Creating an event environment that is safe, comfortable, and engaging for seniors requires forethought and intentional planning. But the effort pays off through increased event participation, greater guest satisfaction, and a more diverse, intergenerational attendee mix.
This article will explore 7 key ways to make public and private events more senior-friendly and accessible. Following these tips can help remove barriers and allow elderly guests to fully participate and enjoy themselves. Let’s get started!
1) Venue Selection and Layout:
Choosing an event venue that is inherently accessible is the first step toward hosting an inclusive gathering. Consider characteristics like:
- Single-story layout or availability of elevators
- Wide halls and doorways (at least 32 inches wide)
- Ramps leading up to entranceways
- Minimal steps, stairs, or uneven surfaces
- Accessible public transportation nearby
For outdoor events, the venue layout and terrain require careful forethought to ensure accessibility. The event grounds should be flat and even so elderly guests using mobility aids can easily navigate the space. When planning outdoor celebrations or festivals, organizers should ask themselves: when are wheelchair accessible porta-potties needed? Providing wheelchair accessible portable toilets is essential for enabling restroom access to all attendees.
Place stages, entertainment, speakers, and presentation screens in visible spots from seated vantage points. Allow extra room between chairs, booths, and tables so guests can move comfortably between them.
2) Clear Communication:
From initial invitations to signage at the venue itself, clear communication removes confusion and uncertainty for elderly guests.
Invitations should provide key event details like start/end times, venue location, and accessibility features. Consider including phone and email contacts so guests can ask questions ahead of time.
Use large, bold fonts (at least 16 points) on all printed materials, signs, and displays. Sans serif fonts like Arial tend to be easiest to read. Avoid fancy scripts or stylized text.
Place highly visible signage directing attendees to important spots like parking, registration, restrooms, seating, and refreshments. Provide adequate lighting so all signs can be easily read.
Make announcements over sound systems using slow, clear speech. Repeat key details often. Provide printouts and anticipate common questions.
3) Accommodating Mobility:
Mobility challenges increase with age, making accessibility for wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and scooters paramount.
Here are some tips:
- Offer valet parking and drop-off areas close to the entrance
- Reserve ample accessible parking spaces near the entryway
- Include ramps (not steps) leading up to the venue
- Prop open heavy doors or provide automatic door openers
- Arrange furniture with ample room for mobility devices to pass
- Provide elevators to upper levels and wheelchair lifts for stages
- Supply a limited number of wheelchairs for temporary use
- Make sure accessible restrooms have grab bars and seat risers
Proactively accommodating guests with limited mobility promotes comfort, dignity, and independence.
4) Sensory Considerations:
Hearing and vision typically decline later in life, so minimize sensory strain. Here are some suggestions:
- Avoid excessively loud music that could aggravate hearing issues
- Speak clearly into microphones at a moderate volume
- Offer printed handouts of presentations or subtitles on screens
- Have sign language interpreters available upon request
- Install extra lighting in dim hallways and passageways
- Reduce glare by drawing window shades or adding shades to lamps
- Increase illumination of small items like food labels and event programs
- Magnify materials by offering large print, audio recordings, or screen readers
- Keep walkways clear of protruding objects or tripping hazards
Adjusting for common sensory limitations allows seniors to fully access the event experience.
5) Inclusive Activities and Entertainment
When planning activities and entertainment, it is important to select options that will resonate across ages and ability levels. Rather than focusing solely on fast-paced, high-energy activities that favor youthful agility, aim for a mix of simpler, classic amusements that allow seniors and children alike to participate comfortably. Some examples of inclusive activities include:
- Sing-alongs, poetry readings, bingo
- Arts and crafts like painting or beading
- Cooking demonstrations with recipe handouts
- Beginner-level exercise classes in yoga or tai chi
- Basic dance lessons like swing or line dancing
- Leisurely tours of historic sites or nature areas with plenty of rest periods
For more fragile elderly guests who require frequent breaks, provide a dedicated quiet space where they can retreat when overstimulated. The goal is to curate a diverse schedule of multigenerational activities at varying exertion levels, so guests of all ages and mobility levels feel engaged and included.
With thoughtful planning, you can create an event experience that brings generations together through shared interests, stimulating minds and bodies in a gentle, uplifting manner.
6) Dietary Restrictions and Hydration:
When planning food and beverages for a multigenerational event, it is essential to keep seniors’ unique dietary needs and preferences in mind. The menu should include lower-salt, heart-healthy options for those managing high blood pressure; lower-sugar choices for diabetics; soft, easy-to-chew foods for denture wearers; and allergy-conscious selections like gluten-free and dairy-free.
Moreover, Nutrient-dense choices can help address common deficiencies in fiber, calcium, vitamin D, and other areas. Small, frequent portions work better than large plated meals for seniors with smaller appetites. Also, clear labeling of all ingredients helps attendees avoid personal allergy or sensitivity triggers.
Furthermore, providing ample hydration stations with water, coffee, tea, and other beverages prevents dehydration. Allowing for special diets enables seniors to safely enjoy refreshments while adhering to doctor-recommended restrictions.
Remember to offer assisted service for those who need help carrying plates or cutting up meals. With mindful menu planning, you can create an event experience that nourishes seniors’ bodies as well as their social connections.
7) Transportation and Parking:
Ensuring guests can easily get to and from the venue is key for accessibility. Consider providing:
- Shuttle transportation to and from the event
- Discounted Uber, Lyft or taxi rides
- Free valet parking with drop-off at the door
- Close proximity to public transportation
- Reserved accessible parking spaces near the entrance
- Complimentary wheelchairs or scooters for transit on-site
- Sheltered drop-off points protected from weather elements
Ideally, the journey to the venue should be as seamless and convenient as possible. Accommodating transportation needs to get more seniors through the door.
While every event and attendee will have unique needs, following these 7 general principles can greatly enhance accessibility. With some intentional planning, event hosts can create welcoming environments where seniors can engage fully based on their abilities and comfort levels. Ensuring events are accessible for the elderly isn’t just thoughtful – it’s a smart way to expand reach and better serve the whole community.