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Stores Make Changes for Older Shoppers

More retail outlets are making their stores easier to navigate for the 50-plus crowd

Christine McCleary is tired of peering at small print when she shops. "Companies need to redesign things because so much of the population is older," says the 59-year-old Incline Village, Nevada, resident, after her recent struggles at a local store. And corporate America, believe it or not, is starting to agree: With boomers now turning 65 in huge waves — about 7,000 will turn 65 every day this year — and shoppers 50-plus owning the vast majority of U.S. wealth, retailers are making changes to accommodate their wants.

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Illustration of woman trying to reach for an item high on store shelf

Illustration by: Chris Lyons

Some stores have lowered shelves to assist older shoppers.

Updates are especially visible in drugstores and pharmacies. For instance, CVS now hangs magnifying glasses from shelves and uncovers windows to feature brighter, natural light. Store layouts are also improving: Walgreens (along with CVS) has lowered shelving and reorganized products so older consumers don't have to reach too high or bend too low for popular items. Target has increased the font size on pharmacy labels. And drugstores are selling more consumable products (such as salads) in single-serve packages, which can appeal to older shoppers who live alone.
"These are new trends we're seeing," says Steve Perlowski, vice president of industry affairs for the National Association of Chain Drug Stores. He adds that companies have implemented changes for older clients after years of planning: "They've done it to make stores more shoppable and more visually appealing."
Retailers aren't the only ones scrambling to make you happy. San Francisco – based First Republic Bank has replaced heavy doors with automatic ones and added higher chairs with firm cushions, after employees noticed that some older clients had trouble rising from plush sofas. "It's a big shift," says Lori Bitter, president of Continuum Crew, a communications firm focused on older consumers. "We're starting to see that designing better for older people is better for everybody."