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Age-friendly businesses could revitalise Britain's high streets.

Posted on in Business News

Older people could be the financial shot in the arm needed for Britain’s high street, according to research commissioned by the University of Stirling. 

Older shoppers

By following some simple tips, retail and hospitality businesses could widen their customer and staff base and at the same time improve the experience of older people, say academics who are working to address healthy ageing challenges. 

Enhancing accessibility could result in a significant financial uplift for high street shops, potentially increasing monthly revenues by £267 million, according to a new set of guides for retailers and hospitality businesses. Using large print menus, providing free newspapers, offering group discounts and accepting cash payments are some of the suggestions included in the guides. 

The retail and hospitality toolkits, developed and funded as part of the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge and its Social, Behavioural & Design Research Programme (SBDRP), also suggest using staff name badges, adapting lighting and soundscapes for older people, and training to help employees better understand older people’s needs. 

The guides advise shops, restaurants and cafes to set aside designated time for older people. For example, Morrisons and Tesco supermarkets operate quiet shopping hours, when music and in-store radios are turned off, loudspeaker system announcements are avoided, and checkout sounds turned down. 

The guides also encourage businesses to recruit more older workers. Currently, one in three employees is aged 50 and over. The Retail Guides indicate that by 2030, staff over 50 will outnumber those under 30 in the retail sector. 

Spending by older consumers will rise from 54% (£319 billion) of total consumer spending in 2018 to 63% by 2040 (£550 billion), says the International Longevity Centre, publisher of the retail guides. The hospitality toolkit was produced by the University of Surrey’s Hospitality Connect programme. 

Judith Phillips, OBE, of the University of Stirling, Professor of Gerontology and Research Director for the Healthy Ageing Challenge, said: “These guides offer practical and actionable advice for retailers and hospitality businesses so that they can adapt for our ageing society. They serve as a clear roadmap for creating a society in which everyone’s wellbeing is valued, with healthy ageing front and centre.” 

Dr Elaine Douglas, Programme Manager at the SBDRP, said: “This research underlines the immense potential for business to enhance the quality of life for older individuals. It’s about creating more inclusive and accessible environments that benefit everyone.  

“Shops, cafes and restaurants are powerful resources for our communities – places to gather, to socialise or just have a chat at the checkout, and employers of older people. So, catering better for older people is a community health matter too.” 

The University of Stirling hosts the Social, Behavioural & Design Research Programme which is funded by UK Research and Innovation. The Programme meaningfully engages with older people and businesses to provide insights into the needs and opportunities of an ageing population. The Programme covers seven projects, funded by the UKRI Healthy Ageing Challenge, from home design and supportive environments to healthy ageing at work.  

The guides can be found here:   

Retail Project: The Healthy Retail Guides - SBDRP (  
Hospitality Connect: Welcome ALL | A Toolkit for Age-inclusive Hospitality Venues - SBDRP (

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