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Businesses in two towns in Western North Carolina were invited to participate in a Senior-Friendly Certification (SFC). The purpose of SFC is to acknowledge businesses that recognized the value of the older consumer, customer, and employee, going beyond the basic ADA requirements.The certification originated in Nash County, NC in 2010 by a local Area Agency on Aging. It was duplicated in Haywood County in 2011 and 2012 as a pilot program, focusing on the older consumer. The certification processes were conducted in April of two consecutive years in Haywood County, where twenty-four businesses were reviewed and nine businesses were certified. The local paper announced the certification and followed the process, including pictures of the newly certified businesses.

According to an 2006 AARP survey, businesses are not prepared for the "brain drain" as boomers retire or cut work schedules. The result "may significantly increase labor costs and deplete corporations of vital knowledge, talent, and institutional memory." The trend will affect various industries including healthcare, transportation, government, education, energy, and manufacturing.

Now called Aging Friendly Initiative (AFI), the pilot program has grown and expanded to be more in-depth, further challenging businesses to value both the over-40 workforce and customers. We welcome you to join us in recognizing businesses that appreciate and utilize the knowledge and experience that older workers offer. This knowledge and experience helps organizations maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Our senior members are the heart and soul of our credit union. Without them, we would not be in the strong position we are in today. They will always remain a very important part of our success. We constantly look for ways to improve our relationship with them. The Senior-Friendly Business Certification is just another example of that.

Mike Clayton, President of Champion Credit Union

The team at AFI helped us to see the world from a different perspective. The instruction AFI provided was invaluable in showing us how to build more accessible websites allowing our clients to serve their customers better.

Jason Oney, Shaded Pixel LLC

We are pleased to participate in the Senior-Friendly Certification Program. The information about accessibility and customer service was very helpful.

Jo Gilley, Blue Ridge Books

We are very honored to have participated in the certification process. It is our goal to provide the best service possible and we take great pride in making sure that our guests are completely satisfied. The senior population is a growing market in our community and it is very important to our department that we meet their needs.

Rhett Langston, Director, Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department