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Age UK - Food shopping ordeal creates malnutrition risk

With one in ten people aged over 65 in the UK who live at home at risk of malnutrition, Age UK is calling on supermarkets and corner shops to make food shopping easier for millions of older people across the country.

While the weekly shop may be a relatively painless chore for most people, it is often an overwhelming and exhausting ordeal for many in later life and simply impossible for some.

19% of people aged 65 and over say that they have a long standing illness that makes shopping difficult or out of the question leaving them more susceptible to malnutrition.

Age UK’s call comes in its report 'opens link in new window Food Shopping in Later Life – Barriers and Service Solution' which is being launched at a conference in London today co-hosted with the Association of Convenience Stores (ACS).

Supermarkets and even local convenience stores often seem like obstacle courses for older people  – from narrow aisles, shelves that are too high or low and a lack of adequate rest and toilet facilities. In addition, packaging which is difficult to open and supermarkets’ habit of discounting food bought in bulk makes shopping  frustrating and more expensive for the 3.7 million people aged 65 and over who live alone.

Rural areas pose extra barriers

The challenge is even greater for those who live in rural areas where public transport to the nearest supermarket may be thin on the ground, making shopping difficult or inaccessible for the 48% of people over 70 who do not drive.

With older households spending £109 billion a year in total, Age UK is calling on convenience stores and supermarkets to lift the barriers to shopping  facing older people.

Michelle Mitchell, Age UK’s Charity Director General said, 'Food shopping is an exhausting ordeal  for many  older  people as they try to contend with narrow aisles, a lack of rest and toilet facilities, and public transport as well as packaging that’s difficult to open.

'As our population gets older, this is going to become more and more of an issue. That’s why we’re calling on supermarkets and corner shops to wake up to the physical challenges facing many older people and make some basic changes which are likely to attract more business and make shopping an easier experience.'

Age UK’s recommendations include making shops fully accessible to older people, training staff about the needs of older customers, offering smaller packages of perishable food to suit single households, changing difficult to open packaging and providing more rest areas and toilets.

Age UK’s local partners run a variety of shopping services which help older people get to their nearest supermarket and deliver food.

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