RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:
Ashley Milne-Tyte has this report.
ASHLEY MILNE: What could be wrong with a fully stocked supermarket with its enticing displays, numerous aisles and gleaming floors? The older we get, just about everything, says retail anthropologist Georganne Bender. Take the floors.
GEORGANNE BENDER: Retailers love shiny floors, but shiny floors are scary to somebody who's not sure if it's going be, you know, slick footing for them.
MILNE: The National Retail Federation says its members are on the case. But Bender says, so far, there's more talk than action. Drugstore chain CVS has made changes.
BENDER: They're re-setting their counters, not putting things too high or too low, they're putting carpeting in the store.
MILNE: Robert and Ronnie Rubin are retired teachers in their late sixties. They point out some stores have automatic doors, but plenty don't.
ROBERT RUBIN: You need to be, Hercules to open the door.
RONNIE RUBIN: Robert and I have spent - have more than once have gone over to assist somebody in opening a door because they just couldn't get it open. We're fortunate, we're still healthy enough to be able to do these things.
MILNE: Rosemary Bakker of Weill Cornell Medical College is an interior designer and gerontologist. We meet to tour a store the New York City Council has called age-friendly - a Whole Foods Market on Manhattan's Upper West Side. But Bakker notices something age-unfriendly as soon as we push our cart through the door.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
ROSEMARY BAKKER: This music is geared for a much younger audience, and I find it with this very low beat, very distracting. So I want to come in here and shop but there's this drum beat going on and I feel like I'm in the wrong environment.
MILNE: Bakker turns to the utensils at the salad bar.
BAKKER: They have nice size handles, here, for me to pick up, so I'm looking to make sure that I can easily grasp things if I might have a little arthritis in my hand.
MILNE: Retail anthropologist Georganne Bender says whatever help stores offer, they need to be subtle. Never make a customer feel old. A&P supermarkets recently started a loyalty program for shoppers over 55.
BENDER: And they called it a senior discount. Well I'm 55 years old.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
BENDER: And there's no way that I'm a senior and I'm the kind of person that, I don't even want your discount if I have to have the senior citizen card.
MILNE: For NPR News, I'm Ashley Milne-Tyte in New York.
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