There is nothing much more stressful than being out shopping, starting to feel a bit wobbly, and finding there is just nowhere to sit down.
This is an experience that affects many older people – and the consequence is often that we stop going out as frequently as we used to. Excursions need to be planned, to take account of those rare places where you know you will be able to find a seat.
Standing Up 4 Sitting Down (#su4sd) is a campaign that was set up by Anchor Trust, calling on retailers and high streets to do their bit to improve an important part of people’s by providing adequate seating in stores and public spaces.
The economic case is unanswerable: shops will be missing out on an estimated £4.5 billion by 2030 if they don’t take steps to make the shopping experience easier and more enjoyable for older customers.
Whether it’s hundreds of square metres with not a seat to be found anywhere; aisles that are too narrow to navigate comfortably; or self-service checkouts that are not only challenging for those who are less tech-savvy, but also remove a rare moment of interaction with another human being.
All these familiar features of the high street and shopping centre are turning away a significant – and growing – proportion of the population.
A relentless decline in retail outlets
In 1950 there were 600,000 stores in Britain. By 2012, the number was 290,000, and it is expected that this will have declined to 220,000 by 2020. Look forward another 10 years, without taking steps to encourage people to return to the shops, and the Centre for Future Studies predicts that another 100,000 will close, leaving a total of just 120,000.
Shopping online is, of course, an easy and stress-free option for many – but it doesn’t answer the growing problem of chronic loneliness.
A welcoming and comfortable High Street, full of accessible shops could go a long way to easing the isolation of those who live alone.
A new study of people aged between 70 and 90, living independently at home, found that those who went out every day lived longer, irrespective of other social or medical factors.
Shopping gives people, particularly those living alone, important social contact, reducing loneliness. It also offers more opportunities for physical exercise enjoying the outdoors and meeting up with friends.
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Standing Up 4 Sitting Down is already increasing seating on the high street
More than 1500 retail outlets across the country, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Hotter, are supporting the campaign to provide seats where shoppers can take a rest.
With more seating and resting areas on offer for those who need them, including older people, visiting local shops need not be such a struggle.
For shops and retail spaces, providing a better, more inclusive welcome increases footfall and ultimately, sales.
There are free window stickers available from Anchor Trust for retailers to let customers know that they will find somewhere inside to rest if necessary.
You can add your voice to the campaign:
• Write to your local retailer, asking them to provide more facilities for older and disabled shoppers.
• When you go out shopping, tell local shops about the campaign and ask whether they could offer more seating
• Highlight the issue on social media – follow the conversation and post using the hashtag #su4sd (link to Twitter will open in a new browser window)
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