Older supermarket shoppers need a positive attitude from employees, functional shopping trolleys, and appropriate placement of products on shelves. Retail stores are public space and they should look good and be functional. Therefore a universal design approach can prevent shopping malls from being ageist.
Key design elements are: seamless outdoor to indoor access, easy to use shopping trolleys, seeing, finding and reaching products, reading product contents and price tags, and a smooth payment process.
Apart from helpful staff and functional equipment, there are other elements to consider.
- Circulation systems and spaces: ramps, elevators, escalators, hallways and corridors
- Entering and exiting: identifying and approaching entrances and exits and moving through them easily
- Wayfinding: Graphical text, pictograms, maps, photos, diagrams, obvious paths of travel, nodes, edges, zones and districts
- Obtaining products and services: service desks waiting areas and shops
- Public amenities: toilets and seating
- Ambient conditions: noise control, non-glare lighting, adequate temperature and humidity
A paper titled, Design Failure in Indoor Shopping Structures: Unconscious
Ageism and Inclusive Interior Design in Istanbul explains more. The authors use the 7 principles of universal design as a guide and add another 4. The additional four principles are related to aesthetics, social participation, sustainability and equity. They also found that toilets and seating within supermarkets could do much to improve the shopping experience for older people.
As older adults’ need for toilets increases, the time spent in the supermarket declines. So they choose medium or small-sized supermarkets within walking distance of home.
From the abstract
People consciously or unconsciously make older adults feel less important than younger citizens. Older people may experience social and economic stress as well as anxiety, hopelessness, isolation, and depression. Almost all industries are disproportionately focused on developing technological innovations for younger people, not for older adults.
Although there is research on aging populations, research on the indoor design problems that older people encounter every day is scarce. Shopping is a good opportunity for older people to get involved in the community and we should aim to prevent architectural barriers.
A questionnaire was administered to 198 participants about their experiences in supermarkets. The results showed that as the need for rest areas and toilets increases, the time spent by older adults in supermarkets declines.
Additionally, checkout counters and product display shelves show design problems that constitute indoor accessibility issues. This study concludes by looking at issues in the design of indoor shopping area that contribute to ageist attitudes. We call for inclusive shopping environments to address spatial justice and to eliminate ageism.