News / USA

Retailers Prepare for Aging Baby Boomers

Stores adjust to special needs of more older shoppers

CVS stores offer magnifiers for customers who might have trouble reading the small print on labels.
CVS stores offer magnifiers for customers who might have trouble reading the small print on labels.

Multimedia

Audio
Ashley Milne-Tyte

The first group of so-called baby boomers, Americans born after World War II, turns 65 this year. Within the next 10 years, the number of Americans over 65 is expected to jump almost 30 percent.

That has U.S. retailers pondering how to accommodate the millions of older shoppers who’ll be flooding through their doors in the coming decades.

What appeals to many shoppers - fully-stocked shelves with enticing displays, numerous aisles and gleaming floors - can have a different impact as we age. Take the floors, for example.

“Retailers love shiny floors," says retail anthropologist Georganne Bender. "But shiny floors are scary to somebody who’s not sure if it’s going to be, you know, slick footing for them.”

Then there’s getting down those long aisles to the products, which may be on shelves that are too high or too low. Half the population over 65 has some kind of arthritis. A lot of younger people have it too. Reaching and bending get harder.

Making changes

The National Retail Federation says its members are working to make shopping easier. Bender notes changes at one drugstore chain.

“They’re re-setting their counters, not putting things too high or too low, they’re putting carpeting in the store.”

There also are magnifiers hanging from shelves so shoppers can read the fine print on packaging. But so far, Bender says, there’s more talk than action from most retailers.

New Yorkers Robert and Ronnie Rubin  are retired teachers in their late sixties who run into problems while shopping, starting with the lack of automatic doors at many stores.

“You need to be, uh, Hercules to open the door,” says Robert Rubin.

Ronnie Rubin adds, "Robert and I have more than once gone over to assist someone in opening the door because they just couldn’t get it open. We’re fortunate we’re still healthy enough to be able to do these things.”

Age-friendly shopping

But there may come a time when the Rubins will benefit from a store designed with their needs in mind. Rosemary Bakker of Weill Cornell Medical College is an interior designer and gerontologist. She assesses a grocery store on Manhattan’s Upper West Side that the New York City council has called age-friendly.

Bakker notices something age-unfriendly as soon as she walks in: the upbeat music blaring from the store’s public address system.

“This music is geared for a much younger audience, and I find it with this very low beat, very distracting," she says. "So I want to come in here and shop but there’s this drum beat going on and I feel like I’m in the wrong environment.”

Anyone with cognitive difficulties would find the visual stimuli of the displays, combined with the music, too much to handle, according to Bakker. A 79-year-old woman across the street confirms she avoids the market for that very reason.

But on other fronts, this store does well. It has wide aisles, good lighting and helpful staff. The signs are easy to read. Bakker turns to the utensils at the salad bar.

“They have nice size handles here for me to pick up, so I’m looking to make sure that I can easily grasp things if I might have a little arthritis in my hand.”

Her wish list includes carts with built-in seats so weary shoppers can take a rest. Some supermarkets in Europe already use those.

Retail anthropologist Georganne Bender says whatever help stores offer, they need to be subtle. Never make a customer feel old. That’s a mistake one supermarket made recently, when it started a loyalty program for shoppers over 55.

“And they called it a senior discount," says Bender. "Well, I’m 55 years old and there’s no way that I’m a senior and I’m the kind of person that, I don’t even want your discount if I have to have the senior citizen card.”

But if they think of another name, she might consider it.

You May Like

Myanmar Fighting Poses Dilemma for China

To gain some insight into conflict, VOA’s Steve Herman spoke with Min Zaw Oo, director of ceasefire negotiation and implementation at Myanmar Peace Center More

Australia Concerned Over Islamic State 'Brides'

Canberra believes there are between 30 and 40 Australian women who have taken part in terror attacks or are supporting the Islamic State terror network More

Recreational Marijuana Use Now Legal in Washington, DC

Law allows adults 21 and over to privately possess and smoke 0.05 kilogram of pot, and to grow small amounts of the plant More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More