Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Age Friendly Shopping Centres

According to the World Health Organisation, ‘making cities more age-friendly is a necessary and logical response to promote wellbeing and contributions of older urban residents and keep cities thriving’. Where cities are age friendly they tend to be friendlier for all age groups as their direct needs are frequently shared with other groups, particularly people with young children and those with disabilities.

Canberra has been accepted as an age-friendly city. Living up to the WHO ideals should result in a friendlier and more relaxing environment. In shopping centres this is good for business and therefore profits.

These needs include:-
Having appropriate seating at regular intervals. Appropriate seating includes the correct height, and with arms, to enable older shoppers to sit down and get up easily.
Shopping centre seating needs to be user friendly, with seats facing each other to enable interaction between users.
Individual stores which involve customer queues, such as banks, should be encouraged to provide seats on their premises.
Many grandparents today act as baby sitters. Adequate seating near play areas is necessary to attract these customers to centres.
Car parks should be easily accessible to shopping centres, not separated by busy roads, as at the newly built Casey centre. This is a government responsibility but centre managers should have input into such planning. Where access to centres is limited or hazardous, customers are discouraged.
Underground car parks should be appropriately lit, to accommodate older people who often have less efficient eyesight.
In toilets, hooks behind doors, designed to hold handbags etc. should be at a suitable height for older people who tend to be shorter.
Shop keepers, particularly in supermarkets, should be encouraged to store goods purchased by older customers on shelves which are at a height accessible to this group.
In centres which have facilities for entertainment, the interests of the elderly could be taken into consideration.
Safety within centres should be paramount for all shoppers, including the elderly. Where safety is compromised, such as with ‘Wet floor’ signs, older people, for whom falling is a permanent hazard, are automatically discouraged from patronising the centre. The signs have no legal consequence and should be replaced by a non-slip flooring surface.
Moving staircases connecting floors should be appropriate for use by older shoppers. Those recently installed in the Gungahlin shopping centre extension are quite hazardous for older people, particularly for those with trolleys.

Older people form an increasing percent of the population and their needs in shopping centres should be considered, particularly as these are often paralleled by other groups. Attracting customers and providing an environment in which they are relaxed and comfortable is good for shopping centres and is therefore good for business and profits.

Audrey Guy
HCCA Member

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