Atlantic Cities

City Test: How Hard Is it For Seniors to Get to a Grocery Store?

City Test: How Hard Is it For Seniors to Get to a Grocery Store?
Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Sure, the car-free city sounds great, but what if you’ve got four bags of groceries and a two-mile trek home? And you’re 80?

The challenges of mobility increase dramatically with age, and that’s becoming ever more clear for cities as populations tip into the senior side of the spectrum. A new research effort is looking into the common problems of mobility faced by senior citizens to help improve city planning. Operating under the assumption that people rarely move within and around cities empty-handed, the researchers hope to compile user-generated data from senior citizens to better understand how their regular shopping trips to the grocery store might be improved.

The research is being led by Helene Brembeck, Professor of Ethnology at the Centre for Consumer Science (CFK) at the University of Gothenburg, and consists of a group of seniors who are asked to record their grocery purchases and photograph the bags and carts they use to haul groceries, plus a field study by researchers of the seniors’ “shopping landscape.”

“This form of consumer logistics is a forgotten aspect of urban planning,” says Brumbeck. “We consider it a good starting point, for improved consumer logistics for the elderly, to look at how senior citizens deal with their daily logistics, what kind of problems they face and what ideas they have for improvements.”

The logistics of grocery shopping is one of those basic functions of people in cities. And though it’s often taken for granted, the act of getting to and from the store can pose challenges. By looking into how easy it is for the elderly to accomplish this basic task, the researchers could offer some new ideas for cities with aging populations. Cities are places for many age groups. This research could point to ways that places can improve their urban design and transportation options to serve a range of ages and needs.

Nate Berg is a freelance reporter and a former staff writer for The Atlantic Cities. He lives in Los Angeles. All posts »

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