Millions of older consumers to struggle with design barriers when shopping this Christmas
Research by the International Longevity Centre (ILC-UK) for Age UK published last week shows that while accounting for a growing slice of the nation's purchasing power - nearly £100 billion a year - consumers aged 65-plus are facing design barriers at every stage of the shopping experience, from accessing money to buying on the High Street.
Nearly one in five over-65s shun High Street shopping because of lack of toilets.
It also suggests that the lack of age-friendly products and services could help explain why older people with higher incomes are more likely than their younger counterparts to be among those spending the least. By failing to listen to the needs and aspirations of this growing age group, companies could be missing out on a multi-million pound business opportunity, the report indicates.
The Golden Economy report shows retailers in particular still have some way to go in adapting to an ageing consumer market. Previous research by Age UK showed that more than one in seven over-65s find inaccessible shop space - for example, narrow aisles or high shelves - the most off-putting factor, after price, when buying a product.
A new Age UK/TNS poll now shows nearly one in five over-65s admit to avoiding shopping on the High Street because of lack of public toilets (17%), while one in seven can find it hard to use cash machines because they cannot read the screen (14%)4.
The ILC-UK research also highlights a number of recurring problems that older consumers experience when in shops, supermarkets in particular:
* a lack of rest areas and seating, which makes shopping tiring;
* poor store layout (particularly narrow aisles and poor shelf signposting), which makes shops difficult to navigate and goods hard to find;
* shelves at a height that is difficult to reach (high and low), a particular problem for those with limited mobility and dexterity;
* a lack of adequate toilet facilities;
* deep trolleys which are difficult to get shopping out of (and scarcity of the shallow
trolleys that are designed to mitigate this problem).
Once products are bought, the number of consumers affected by design barriers grows even further. The Age UK survey shows nearly half of over-65s can struggle to take lids or caps off products such as plastic milk bottles or jars because of the packaging (48%) and over half have difficulty reading the instructions on food products as the print is too small (54%).
To influence and help the commercial sector to recognise and factor in the needs of older people, the charity is developing Age OK, an accreditation mark which demonstrates that a product has been designed inclusively.
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK, said,"The consumer is king, we are told, but many in later life will feel they are relegated to a much humbler role in today's marketplace. The attention the wider business world pays to them has lagged far behind their growing spending power.
"It's time for businesses to wake up to the scale of the opportunity they are missing and for the Government to promote inclusive design by demanding accessibility and usability in the products and services they procure."
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