Preparing for the Elderly Customer Experience


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I took a medium-length flight with a respected European carrier this morning. I take the same flight every week to a client. I know how to check-in online to get a single aisle seat. I know how to get through security quickly at Frankfurt Airport. I know where to get a free Financial Times to read. I know where to get the best toasted Foccacia with Goat Cheese for breakfast. It has become routine and almost comfortable.

For some reason today’s flight was packed with elderly passengers. I followed them (metaphorically speaking) through the whole airport departure experience. For them it was far from routine and even further away from comfortable:

  • They didn’t understand all the ludicrous security checks. Luckily, one particular security staffer helped them through.
  • The gate was crowded and there weren’t enough places for passengers with walking sticks to sit. I happily gave my place away to an elderly gentleman with a Zimmer.
  • Boarding was a shambles and the airline staff struggled to cope with the infirmity of many passengers and their confusion about what to do, which papers to show and where to go next.
  • The hard-pressed staff were not helped by a pushy American businessman with too much luggage, who insisted on boarding first because he was an elite member of a US partner airline. You could see that many passengers just wanted someone to thump him and teach him some manners. Staff told him to wait. He was not very happy. But everyone else was!
  • Once onboard, the elderly passengers struggled to find their seats, as the seating signs were far too small to read.
  • And once they did find their seats, many of them couldn’t reach up to put their small amount of luggage in the overhead bins.

The customer experience simply wasn’t designed with elderly customers in mind. It was presumably designed by middle-aged people with other middle-aged people in mind. Yet, populations are rapidly aging. Over 90% of everybody who has ever lived, is still alive today. And the proportion of elderly people in the population is going to continue to increase.

It is high time that companies actively designed their experiences with the elderly in mind. Far better to do it voluntarily than have elderly lawyers breathing down their necks, or worse, to have the leaden-hand of government over-regulation make things worse for all concerned.

We will all be old one day.

What do you think? Are the elderly short-changed by most of today’s experiences? And if so, what can be done about it?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager

Graham Hill (Dr G)
Business Troubleshooter | Questioning | Thoughtful | Industrious | Opinions my own | Connect with me on LinkedIn


  1. The following article on Microsoft developing a PC for the elderly, to help them do common computerised tasks more easily, caught my attention.

    It is a one of a growing number of examples of companies recognising that the elderly are a different, a growing and an economically powerful group in today’s society. A group with their own unique customer experience requirements.

    Makes a change from the overcomplexity of Vista.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  2. The good folks over at Experientia highlighted a programme being started by the German Government to design products, services and experiences for the elderly.

    I think this is a great idea, except that the German Government is running the programme. That means it will over-engineered and stuffed full of the great and the good telling elderly people what designs are good for them, rather than it being driven by the elderly co-creating designs that work for them. Oh and it will cost German taxpayers (of which I am one) a pretty packet too. Over-engineered German solutions always do! Sigh!

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

    Further Reading:

    Experientia Blog Post

  3. Your article appeared whilst doing a search on elderly passengers. As a Safety Manager for a train operating company it is becoming more and more apparent that the elderly are a growing population and we need to move with the times to accommodate their needs. Definately food for thought !!


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