MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre in Kilkenny became Ireland’s first Age Friendly Shopping Centre in November 2016
Marion Acreman, Centre Manager, MacDonagh Junction Shopping Centre: “In our line of work, we were very focussed on the needs of our customers but sometimes in the noise of the retail environment, we had forgotten that our older customer may have challenges that we ourselves haven’t had to deal with. We were good at looking after young families, our added services including baby feeding room and height adjustable changing bench, autism shopping, hidden disability training as well as pregnancy parking spaces and feeding suite all of which had been so well received but we needed to think about the customer at all stages of life. We could relate to the young family because we were there ourselves.
When Kilkenny Age Friendly chair Nikki Brennan approached me, I knew immediately that the age friendly business accreditation programme had to be part of our objectives for the business.
The programme went about examining the business and making some changes to overcome challenges for older customers, we carried out some training and listened to an older customer forum for feedback. What made this project more important was that we invited our retailers to sign up too including Next, Boots, K Bowl, Art – It, the Card Factory, Starbucks, Peter Mark, Carraig Donn, and Fields Jewellers. The stores involved offered a range of adaptions including the provision of reading glasses for menus or catalogue reading as well as more seating in stores.
Some of the changes we adopted in the centre included
- dedicated parking bays and mall seating for older customers
- dementia awareness training
- better wayfinding signage
We also implemented a very popular discount club on Wednesday mornings. It includes dedicated Age Friendly discounts from a range of stores. We have over 300 members in our Age Friendly Club.
As a result of being Age Friendly we are now more alert to changes that will impact an older customer. I firmly believe the way we do business is now guided by our awareness. The reason I wanted to incorporate age friendly training into our business place was to make it easier for us to connect and relate to our older customers. It gives our customers the comfort of knowing that we value them at all stages of life. The ability to recognise a person with dementia or maybe offer a seat to an older customer makes our job much easier, it equips us with life skills that translate across all aspects of our environment. It gives younger staff the confidence to reach out to people who may otherwise may have avoided due to a lack of confidence. The benefits have been immeasurable and so worthwhile.”