Four Considerations in Age-Friendly Communications

The Milken Institute's Center for the Future of Aging just asked 150 mayors to pledge to make their cities more age-friendly to support demographic changes. Liana Soll, a senior associate at Milken states, "If a city is livable for older adults, it's truly livable for everyone."

It got me thinking. When was the last time you audited communications at your entity for age-friendliness?

Here are four items to keep front of mind when you are conducting an age-friendly audit:

Font size. Farsightedness (hyperopia) develops in most of us as we age. Small fonts become difficult to read. In stressful or time-sensitive situations, readers will skip over text.

Webpages and forms
Can font size be changed on demand?
Is layout impacted or does the screen repaint correctly?

Paper forms and collateral
What font size is used in everything from consent forms to discharge papers?

Contrast. Individuals with macular degeneration or corneal implants frequently have trouble reading in low contrast and low light situations.

Webpages
Does the background color or image interfere with contrast?

Environment
Does lighting at Registration, Pharmacy and the Cashier's window need to be supplemented?
How is interior signage lit?

Message Structure. How you structuring patient communications? Are you writing from their perspective or yours? Here are four steps you can take today:

  1. Use the word "you" as often as possible. For example, "This is a reminder that you have an appointment..."
  2. Set off and bold location, date and time information.
  3. Place the most critical facts in the top third of the communication.
  4. End on a positive note. closing with a phrase like, "We look forward to seeing you."

Sentence Complexity. The purpose of writing is to get your message across. Aim to write at an 8th to 9th grade level. While it is a tough standard, it will increase the chances your message is heard and understood.

Updating communications for age-friendliness is a huge undertaking. If you need a hand, let's talk.