Studies affirm that almost 80 percent of people with dementia listed shopping as a favorite activity. At the same time, 63 percent of people surveyed didn't think that shops were doing enough to help people with dementia.
Retailers need to take heed of this research, as the explosion of older adults and those living with dementia will be their growing customer base.
Helping people to live well with dementia means helping them and their care partners be able to continue with everyday tasks, and retailers can do this by making the shopping experience enjoyable, safe and minimize confusion and embarrassment for customers.
As part of the Dementia Friendly Communities movement sweeping countries around the globe, people with dementia should be given the choice to lives as independently as possible for as long as possible. Being able to shop in their local communities plays a huge part in this goal.
What challenges to people living with dementia face when shopping?
- Problems navigating around a store due to unclear signage, not knowing how to find someone to help, getting lost or not finding items
- Picking up the wrong item or being able to easily communicate with employees
- Confusing checkout procedures, for example understanding how to use a credit or debit card, or finding correct cash, feeling rushed or adjusting to new technology at the checkout counter
- Worrying about feeling embarrassed or that people will not have an understanding for their difficulties
Caregivers have concerns as well, some of these being:
- Will the person get lost or even walk out of the store?
- Are changing rooms large enough for both care partners?
- Is the bathroom easily accessible, safe and large enough to accommodate the needs of both care partners?
- Having enough parking spaces close to the shopping establishment with enough room to easily get in and out of the care safely?
When retailers improve accessibility, customer service and a welcoming atmosphere, everyone benefits, including the local economy.
How can retail businesses become more dementia friendly?
Improve staff awareness and understanding of the challenges one faces when living with cognitive impairments and sensory changes
- Leadership training in understanding the impact of dementia and how it changes customer needs
- Review processes and procedures from a lens of customers with cognitive decline
- Supporting people who may be showing signs of dementia, whether they are customers or employees
- Enlist a detailed review of the physical environment of the store and surrounding premises
- Support employees who are caregivers themselves with resources, family leave time and employee sponsored education
Making a commitment to becoming a dementia friendly retailer doesn't mean that everything has to change immediately. Simply making minor changes such as clear signage, adding quiet spaces and dementia training for employees can have a significant impact immediately. Goals can be set by management with benchmarks to make additional changes over time that will collectively create a commitment to becoming a dementia friendly business.
Pam Brandon is President/Founder of AGE-u-cate® Training Institute and a passionate advocate for older adults and those who support them. She is the creator of the Dementia Live® Simulation Training Program being used worldwide to help people better understand the challenges of living with dementia.