Retailers set to become more dementia friendly

Alzheimer’s Society is launching a new guide for retailers to encourage them to become dementia friendly and support people living with dementia and their carers.

850,000 people live with dementia in the UK, and research * carried out by the charity has shown that 8 out of 10 of those with the condition list shopping as their favourite activity.

However, 63 per cent of people surveyed don’t think that shops are doing enough to help people with dementia and one in four people with dementia ** have given up shopping since being diagnosed. Many cite difficulties with shopping including finding their way around stores, picking up the wrong items, problems at the checkout and worries about staff and other shoppers’ reactions.

Getting out and about and performing everyday tasks like shopping are important because people with dementia want to live well within their own communities and remain independent for as long as possible.

Alzheimer’s Society has launched 'Becoming a dementia friendly retailer, a practical guide' at an exclusive industry event attended by retail leaders, including senior representatives from Sainsbury’s, East of England Cooperative, British Council of Shopping Centres and Tesco.

Alzheimer’s Society Chief Executive Jeremy Hughes, who launched the guide, said:

'Sadly, people tell us they often stop going shopping as their dementia progresses because they are worried about getting the support they need. In turn, this can lead to people with dementia feeling socially isolated.

'Everyone has the right to be able to shop comfortably and we all have a role in helping people with dementia feel like a part of their community.

'We are extremely proud to launch this guide and congratulate all those retailers who are already paving the way to transforming the retail experience for people with dementia.

'We fully hope other retailers will be encouraged to follow in their footsteps, and use this guide to make a huge difference to people living with dementia because a trip to the shops means they can remain active members of their communities.'

The guide is aimed at a wide range of retailers from corner-shop owners to retail park managers in a bid to help them improve the shopping experience for people with dementia.

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friendly Communities initiative aims to ensure people with dementia remain active members of their communities, the guide contains information about how dementia affects people’s experience of shopping. It is also packed with practical tips on how retailers can best support customers with dementia while they shop - from staff signing up to become Dementia Friends to making store layouts more accessible.

The guide sets out four commitments that retailers can make for customers with dementia and their carers:

  • Improve staff awareness and understanding of dementia
  • Review the physical environment of the store/premises
  • Support staff who develop dementia or care for a person with dementia
  • Support the local community

The guide was developed by the Retail Task and Finish Group, a group of retail companies chaired by Sainsbury’s, who work with Alzheimer’s Society to identify best practice in making shops dementia friendly. The group is part of the Prime Minister’s Challenge on Dementia, a key strand of which focuses on developing dementia-friendly communities to support people with dementia to live well in their community.

Ann Johnson, an Alzheimer’s Society ambassador who is living with dementia, said:

'The guide is important to people who are living with dementia, their friends and family and to the staff in shops and supermarkets because it will help them understand our problems and how they can help.

'The problems people with dementia might have include counting money, finding the correct item, using toilets, finding their way around the store or finding their way out. It is often the simplest things that help best and if staff are aware of this it will help.'

Sainsbury’s Company Secretary and Board Sponsor for Disability, Age and CarersTim Fallowfield said:

'With so many people who are living with dementia naming shopping as their favourite activity, there is a big opportunity for retailers like us to improve their lives. 

'Sainsbury’s stores assist elderly and disabled customers with their shopping every week, and this includes customers with dementia. To enable our colleagues in stores to help these customers, we include information about dementia in our colleague disability awareness training and take the needs of customers with dementia into account when developing new products and services.

'Every retailer wants to provide great customer service to all their customers. If every retailer makes just one change, collectively that will make an enormous difference to people living with dementia.'

Davinder Jhamat, Head of Research and Education, British Council of Shopping Centres (BCSC) said:

'BCSC is really proud to have participated in the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia and to be supporting such an important initiative.

'We have a growing ageing population in the UK and our members are acutely aware that people living with dementia are shoppers too.

'Retail destinations are at the hearts of communities and it is essential to create environments where all shoppers are made to feel secure and comfortable to optimise their shopping experience.'

The guide is available to retailers now and can be found atalzheimers.org.uk/dementiafriendlyretail or by emailing the team at dementiafriendlycommunities@alzheimers.org.uk

Retail case studies

Sainsbury’s

In addition to training their colleagues in how to support customers living with dementia and being one of the first FTSE 100 companies to introduce a Carers Policy to support colleagues with caring responsibilities. Sainsbury’s stores are supporting their local communities in a number of ways including:

In Gosforth Sainsbury’s is trialling ‘Slow Shopping’ every Tuesday from 1-3pm. At this time the store provide additional chairs and help points to give extra support for customers who want to take longer over their shopping.

In Cambridge, Sainsbury’s Coldhams Lane store hosts a dementia café (an Alzheimer’s Society service) in the customer restaurant each month. Led by qualified specialists and supported by local volunteers, these regular social groups improve the wellbeing of people with dementia and reduce isolation.

Stores in Bretton and Peterborough have invited representatives of the Alzheimer’s Society to the store to talk to customers about dementia and outline what local support services are available.

East of England Cooperative

As the largest independent retailer in East Anglia, the East of England Co-op pledged to become a dementia friendly retailer and have embarked on a programme of colleague training and awareness-raising throughout it stores and office.

All of its 4,700 colleagues have been invited to take part in bespoke training to become Dementia Friends, with access to online learning or face-to-face sessions. To date over 77% off colleagues have completed the training and are registered dementia friends. The retailer is now planning their first ‘dementia friendly flagship store’, making physical adaptations to the space as well as introducing an assisted shopping scheme.