Many pensioners would have no one to talk to if they could not shop at their local supermarket
Doing the shopping gives 2.5 million older people a reason to get out of the house with more than a million over 60s visiting a supermarket every day and a further 5.3m going at least two or three times a week.
The research highlights just how important retailers are for many older people who may otherwise stay at home on their own, said Age UK, which recently revealed that 1.2m pensioners in England are chronically lonely.
The charity – which published the study as it steps up its ‘No One Should Have No One’ campaign to tackle loneliness – warned that this figure is set to rise as more people live longer.
Chronic loneliness can also have serious health consequences, contributing to the development of serious medical conditions, such as heart problems and strokes, depression and dementia.
New research shows that supermarkets are very much part of the community
Caroline Abrahams – Director at Age UK
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: “As people age, their local area usually matters a lot more to them than it did when they were younger because they spend more time in it, and this new research shows that supermarkets are very much part of the community and that they fulfil an important social function for many older people.
“A friendly chat with a member of staff working at the till or walking the shop floor can brighten up an older person’s day and do much more good than most of us would ever guess.
“So we would like to encourage every supermarket, and everyone who works in one, to be outgoing and cheerful with their older customers.
Age UK say that 1.2m pensioners in England are chronically lonely
In return they will earn the loyalty as well as the gratitude of many older people and they will also hopefully make their day at work more satisfying too.
“Loneliness sucks the joy out of life and affects far too many older people, but if we all play our part there’s a lot we can do to tackle the problem.
“And though it is not yet generally recognised, this new research shows that staff in supermarkets and other local shops are very much on the frontline in battling one of the scourges of old age today.”
Last November a report by researchers from the University of Hertfordshire called on town centres and retailers to adapt to the needs of older customers.
It suggested special slow checkout lanes for pensioners to give them the chance to experience the “social aspect” of the supermarket.
And yesterday it emerged that a Tesco branch in Forres, in Scotland has introduced a relaxed supermarket checkout to allow customers with Alzheimer’s extra time to chat with a cashier.
It is hoped that the initiative will also be able to help people with social anxiety issues, depression and autism or any one who wants to “take things a little easier”.
Chronic loneliness can also have serious health consequences such as heart problems and strokes
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Wed, November 2, 2016
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A sign at the checkout reads: “Feel free to take as long as you need to go through this checkout today. Please be aware that you may experience a wait to complete your transaction. Thank you.”
An Age UK survey found an overwhelming majority (85 per cent) of over-60s agreed there should be more help available for lonely older people.
Over three-fifths (63 per cent) of this group thought regular visits from a friendly face would be helpful, while nearly half (48 per cent) said the same about a regular weekly phone call.
The charity’s work in local communities found businesses and shops playing an important role monitoring the wellbeing of pensioners who may be lonely by chatting to them, being aware of local services that can help, and developing policies which help front line staff to become volunteer befrienders, making regular visits or telephone calls.