NEW YORK (CBS 2) — From larger print on menus to brighter lighting and quieter music, New York City businesses are learning how to cater to senior citizens.

Business owners say it’s all part of getting ready for a graying population.

Like the rest of New York City, the streets of East Harlem are getting grayer. The over-65 population of the five boroughs is growing rapidly, and will hit 1.35 million people in the next 20 years – a 47-percent increase since 2005.

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“We all have to get old,” East Harlem resident Dolores Jones said. “We all have to help each other. I always preach that to my grandkids.”

The Big Apple is trying to practice what Jones preaches with a new effort called “Age-Friendly NYC.”

“Making sure that older adults are integrated into all parts of city life,” Dorian Block, of the New York Academy of Medicine, said.

The Academy of Medicine is helping the city launch the program.

Many East Harlem businesses are standing up for seniors by offering them a place to sit down, as hundreds of chairs were being delivered to neighborhood businesses.

“You can walk further distances the more places that you have to sit along the way,” Block said. “That’s why we think benches are wonderful in communitie4s, and having a chair at the supermarket allows you to stay there longer.”

Businesses are also getting practical tips, such as stocking items that are popular with seniors on lower shelves, making signs easier to read, and keeping entrances clear.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg first announced “Age-Friendly NYC” three years ago. The program is rolling out at a very opportune time, as budget cuts threaten services at dozens of senior centers.

East Harlem is the first neighborhood to be made more “senior-centric.” You’ll be seeing stickers in many more places in the months ahead as the program expands.

Businesses that sign up are also offered special training sessions, and will be publicized to senior residents.

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