As one of Canada’s fastest-growing demographic groups, the senior population represents an important market for financial advisors. This group is responsible for a sizeable chunk of Canada’s investment assets and it is one of the more rewarding groups with which to work, says Léony deGraaf, certified financial planner (CFP) and elder-planning counsellor with deGraaf Financial Strategies in Burlington, Ont. Senior clients, she says, are grateful for assistance when it comes to financial planning.

But it takes a gentle touch to work with the elderly, an attribute not every advisor possesses.

“I’ve had clients talk to me about how their previous advisor didn’t listen or talked over them,” deGraaf says. That’s why there are so many seniors whose investment portfolio consists of little more than GICs, she adds. “They default to what is safe and comfortable for them.”

Dealing with seniors can be challenging as their senses decline. A good way to figure out how to best accommodate these clients is by noting where decline tends to occur and making allowances in each category, says Karen Henderson, eldercare specialist and founder of Long Term Care Planning Network in Toronto.

Here are two important areas of accommodation to consider when working with older clients:

> Vision
The rate of age-related eye disease, such as glaucoma and macular degeneration, is expected to increase dramatically over the coming years as the population ages. According to the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, the number of seniors dealing with vision loss is expected to double over the next couple of decades.

Offering senior clients print materials in a larger font is a simple modification you should consider. Glen Rankin, a CFP in Truro, N.S., increases the font on print materials for his senior clients, but warns of making the font too big. “You don’t want to insult them,” he says.

Your office lighting also can be an issue, as seniors need more light to perform tasks, according to Henderson. Ensuring that a waiting room has enough light is critical for a senior’s comfort, she adds.

Your marketing materials also should be age-friendly, Henderson says. Check your website, print materials and business cards for readability and a clean, uncluttered design.

Ask your clients if they need you to make more changes in your material. To avoid embarrassing your client, Henderson says, couch your question as a concern that “other clients” have had.

> Hearing
Not only does our hearing dull as we age, Henderson says, but seniors also get distracted aurally. That’s why it’s important to eliminate as much outside noise as possible when meeting with a senior client.

“Close your door and have your phone turned off,” Henderson says.

It’s also important to accept that some seniors will speak louder — and you might need to, as well, deGraaf says.

Slow down and be prepared to repeat yourself, deGraaf adds. “Patience is one of the most important characteristics when working with elder clients.”

This is the first instalment in a two-part series on dealing with senior clients. Tomorrow: Addressing mobility, agility and cognitive issues.