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

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid