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Dupont Circle Village and Neighborhood Businesses Working Together to Develop Age-Friendly Practices

Accompanying images can be viewed in the November 2013 issue PDF

By Iris Molotsky*

In a first for Washington, the Dupont Circle Village (DCV) and area merchants are working together to develop and introduce age-friendly practices in local stores and professional offices. The project is being funded through a grant from Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets.

The project, initiated by DCV, responds to demographic changes within the neighborhood as well as a city-wide push to make Washington age-friendly. DC’s Age-Friendly Coordinator in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, Gail Kohn, is an enthusiastic supporter of the project. She sees the study as a pilot project that can be replicated throughout the District.

The fastest growing population group in the United States is the 55+ age group. DCV believes that savvy merchants understand the value of adopting practices that will attract this growing consumer base. Empty nesters and retirees are returning to the city in large numbers and Dupont Circle, with its restaurants, shopping corridors and local businesses is an attractive magnet. DCV hopes to encourage local businesses to adopt policies and practices that will attract and encourage loyalty among a mature clientele.

The project consists of three stages: surveying DCV members, surveying local merchants, and development of age-friendly recommendations for merchants. The first phase of the project is completed. The survey found that 48 percent of the respondents have lived in the Dupont Circle area for 26-40 years and 69 percent of respondents consider it very important to remain in their residence and community for as long as possible.

DCV members are highly educated and reasonably well off. More than 60 percent of the members have either a graduate or professional degree. Most are retired with annual incomes of up to $150,000 and report spending up to $2,000 a month on food and restaurants. The majority of members surveyed are aged 65 to 74.

Villagers like to shop locally: 86 percent report that they walk to local shops for shopping and an overwhelming 95 percent report they feel safe walking to shops, grocery stores, restaurants and doing local errands. While 44 percent said they thought local Dupont Circle businesses were age friendly, 64 percent were unhappy about the noise levels in shops, particularly restaurants.

The second phase of the project, surveying Dupont Circle merchants, will begin in November. It will give the merchants an opportunity to examine current practices, to consider changing demographics within the community and to help shape practices that will appeal to older customers.

After analyzing the responses of the two surveys, DCV will develop a set of recommendations for merchants that will help them sustain and increase this growing customer base. It will also be used as a template for city-wide changes. As this initiative proceeds progress reports will be posted on the DCV website.

* The writer, a long-time resident of Dupont Circle, serves as president of Dupont Circle Village, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people remain independent in their homes and community as they age. For more information, see “Aging-in-Place Movement Grows With Formation of Dupont Circle Village,” March 2009 issue PDF page 1.

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