Fifty million people, age 65 and older, represent one-seventh of the U.S. population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Community Living.
“We account for all of the requested shoppers when designing a new space, which can vary depending on the retailer, location, and demographics,” states Christopher Studach, creative director at King Retail Solutions. “In the case of seniors, there are several elements that we consider when designing. One key area is good lighting that improves product visibility and readability. Seniors can also have a difficult time with contrast, so large swings from light to dark areas within the store can cause frustration and risks for senior shoppers.”
According to Studach, King Retail Solutions also focuses on the size, location, and makeup of categories that are of special interest to seniors, particularly lifestyle and health-related categories, with the goal of providing an easy way to locate hard-to-find items. “For example,” he notes, “how many times have you searched with frustration for that one small package of vitamin K that is thoughtfully buried among hundreds of similar small packages?”
A current trend among retailers, he adds, is to use every inch of space for merchandising, but for areas in which seniors have particular interest, it’s important to consider product height and not force seniors to stoop or bend down to merchandise placed too low, and also to try to place heavier products at a height that makes them easier to load into a cart. “Designer trends tend to lean toward ghostly pale text in graphics and signs, sometimes with barely legible font sizes. When considering a senior shopper, we need to back off from that trend and have a better font size and contrast. The goal should be to convey a genuine sense of compassion through functionality as well as aesthetics,” says Studach.
David Yehuda, president of DY Design Inc., stresses that efficient store design benefits all customers, regardless of age or disability, and makes their shopping experience more pleasant and comfortable. “Layouts and traffic flow are designed for the ease of all customers, as well as the efficiency of the store and its products,” he says. “Placing enough room between the checkouts, utilizing signage with letters large enough to be seen and read by all, and applying lighting that illuminates signage, in addition to giving the products a punch of color and vibrancy, are all important.” Yehuda believes that applying universal design principles benefits the senior population as well as people in other life stages and age groups. “Specifying slip-resistant flooring is another smart consideration for the young to the old,” he notes, “with toddlers running around and seniors often walking with canes or using walkers or wheelchairs.”
Good design choices are recommended by the designer and need to be approved by the store owner, Yehuda points out. Regulations, codes, and laws at the local, state, and federal levels exist and influence these decisions, ensuring, for example, that wheelchair users have enough space to navigate through doors comfortably and safely. “Entryways are of huge importance,” he stresses. “If an entryway does have stairs, a ramp must be installed. Also required are handicapped toilets, which must be clearly marked and come equipped with handrails, an important safety measure.”
Improved technology in the future will afford seniors—and all shoppers—quicker and easier access to check prices and check out their food items, he says, and store designers will use their creativity to develop innovative graphics and store decor from natural and sustainable building materials.
Source: Barry Berman, Joel R Evans, Patrali Chatterjee (2017), Retail Management: A Strategic Approach, Pearson; 13th edition.