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

Photogallery Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Holiday traditions include turkey dinners, 'turkey trots,' American-style football and New York parade with giant balloons More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee 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.
To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violencei
X
Lenny Ruvaga
November 27, 2014 7:05 PM
The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video To Make A Living, Nairobi Street Vendors Face Legal Hurdles, Physical Violence

The Nairobi City Council has been accused of brutality in dealing with hawkers in the Central Business District - in order to stop them from illegally selling their wares on the streets. Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid