Redesigning for Age

U.S. Census Aging PopulationAs projected by the 2010 Census, the U.S. population is aging. As the U.S. Population Profile details, “This increasing median age is driven by the aging of the population born during the Baby Boom, after World War II (1946 to 1964). As this population ages, the median age will rise. In 2011, the first members of the Baby Boom reached age 65.” AARP confirms, announcing, “For the next 18 years, boomers will be turning 65 at a rate of about 8,000 a day.”

Customers entering your store could very well be a part of that daily 8,000 turning 65. The question is, how are they greeted, not only by your staff, but also by the atmosphere and layout of your store? Today, independent retailers are considering the age of their average customers and discussing store redesign to accommodate the increasing median age. Following are redesign efforts that retailers large and small are considering to accommodate the aging demographic:

Safety: Some of the safety issues for today’s older shoppers include floors and doorways. Most stores have linoleum and tile floors, as they are surfaces that provide easier cleanup. Yet for customers frequently unsure of their footing, these shiny and frequently washed and waxed floors could make them uneasy and fearful of falling. Carpet may be present in future remodeling plans. Then there is the issue of doorways. Although automatic doors are common entryways for many chain stores, a large percentage of shops and stores do not offer this feature. Depending on the weight of the door and ease of use, a customer could potentially strain him or herself opening the door to your establishment.

Accessibility: Osteoarthritis is a common condition in all races and backgrounds that frequently appears after age 45, and may be giving customers difficulty as they move about your store. As NPR’s guest speaker and retail anthropologist, Georganne Bender, mentions, “Half the population over age 65 has some kind of arthritis. A lot of younger people have it, too. With this ailment, reaching and bending gets harder.” As a result, a redesign of counters and shelves may be in your best interest. If a customer can’t reach a product and is too embarrassed to ask for help, you may be without a sale.

Age Appropriate: You may believe that displays and overhead noise, such as POP fixtures and a radio station playing in your store, are there to attract attention and create ambience. However, Rosemary Bakker, an interior designer and gerontologist, would correct you, saying, “Anyone with cognitive difficulties would find the visual stimuli of the displays, combined with the music (geared towards a much younger audience), too much to handle.” Knowing your average customer could lead to a more subtle display of products and new taste in music.