High street shops need to be rearranged for dementia-hit customers, report says

Ditch confusing self-checkouts, email receipts and ‘quirky’ signs: High street shops need to be rearranged for customers with dementia, report says

  • Self-checkouts and email receipts puts some people off shopping, experts fear
  • Store rearrangements and confusing signs make matters even worse
  • Report calls for relaxed, quiet periods for people who find shopping tricky

High street stores need to be more like traditional corner shops or risk losing older customers with memory problems, a report has warned.

The modern world of self-checkouts, emailed receipts, multiple questions at the till and chip-and-pin cards can put some older people off shopping, experts fear.

Aisles which look the same, store rearrangements which move groceries to new locations, and confusing signs for toilets make matters worse.

A report from the International Longevity Centre (ILC) on dementia and the high street is calling for all shops to provide relaxed, quiet periods for people who find shopping tricky, like the ‘slow shopping’ sessions used in some Sainsbury’s and Tesco stores, which allow shoppers more time to find the right money, pack their bags or ask for help.

In its report, the think-tank praises initiatives which introduce ‘the slower-paced, more personal environments of smaller, local shops’.

Researchers point out that consumer spending could go up by £948million a year if shops were more welcoming to people with memory problems and cognitive impairment.

But one in four people currently give up shopping as soon as they are diagnosed with dementia.

The modern world of self-checkouts, emailed receipts, multiple questions at the till and chip-and-pin cards can put some older people off shopping, experts fear

WHAT HAVE HIGH STREET SHOPS BEEN TOLD TO DO? 

A report from the International Longevity Centre (ILC) on dementia and the high street called for all shops to provide relaxed, quiet periods for people who find shopping tricky.

Its recommendations included: 

1. Provide virtual tours of stores online so people with dementia can get a feel for a shop and plan their route.

2. Free-up more staff could be to help people with dementia

3. Staff to be one-to-one ‘personal shoppers’, accompanying those who are not confident around the store to help find and buy the items they want

4. Shops should receive a ‘kitemark’ to show whether they are dementia-friendly or that people with memory impairments could rate their service on a Tripadvisor-style website

Self-checkouts are an issue because people with memory problems can inadvertently ‘shoplift’ when they forget to pay or walk off after tapping their card, the ILC warns.

Low lighting at the checkout, which makes it hard to see the right coins, or ‘quirky signs to distinguish ladies’ and gents’ toilets’ are unhelpful too.

The report highlights the overwhelming environment of shops for some older people, quoting an area manager for a large retailer who also acts as a carer for her mother.

She said: ‘My mum would struggle if she was asked too many questions at the till… our team members ask a lot of questions.

‘Like ‘Oh, would you like a 10p carrier bag? Would you like an email a receipt? Or a paper receipt?’

‘Those kinds of things we need to be aware of… because it could make my mum feel very confused.’

There are many aspects of shopping which could be made easier for people with dementia.

This includes design, as to people with advanced dementia zigzag floor patterns may look like cracks or snakes, and black patches can often look like holes, while shiny patterns and surfaces can be disorientating.

Overhead signs in shops can be hard to see, and inconsistent use of colour for different signs can be confusing.

The report says: ‘Layout changes can make it difficult to locate products or services people could previously find.’

Recommendations for the high street include stores providing virtual tours online so people with dementia can get a feel for a shop and plan their route.

Amid the rise of self-checkouts, more staff could be freed up to help people with dementia, the report says.

Those who shop alone feel more confident when there is a member of staff willing to act as a one-to-one ‘personal shopper’, accompanying them around the store to help find and buy the items they want.

In the future, it is hoped that shops could receive a ‘kitemark’ to show whether they are dementia-friendly or that people with memory impairments could rate their service on a Tripadvisor-style website.

The report is based on in-depth interviews with people living with dementia, carers and retail staff, as well as focus groups and discussions with charities.

Slow shopping is important because people with dementia can pick up items they don’t need by mistake, struggle to understand the value of items and how much they need to pay, and forget to take all their shopping or the receipt, so often need more time.

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