The demise of the high street will exacerbate loneliness
The demise of the high street is having far-reaching, adverse impacts on many aspects of social life. Historically, human interaction through the high street has been crucial to the sense of community and in this regard has an alleviating effect on loneliness among the elderly generations. If rates of loneliness among older people are not reduced, predicted demographic change alone will drive up the numbers of lonely older people in the UK by 40 per cent by 2030.
Age is a very important predictor of loneliness. The total number of older people in the UK will grow by close to 50 per cent between 2017 and 2030. Today, one in five people aged over 75 “often feel lonely”.
Poverty is another important predictor of loneliness and poorer old people tend to be disadvantaged in multiple ways, having lower levels of mobility, less access to technology and leisure activity. In the years to 2030, differences between the wealth levels of richer and poorer older people will grow even greater.
The 2020s will see sustained high rates of growth in numbers of people in their late 70s and older, the age group that is especially vulnerable to loneliness. There are an estimated 1.2 million people in the UK who have “chronic” loneliness, with links to poorer physical and mental health and increased use of GPs, hospitals and social services.
3.5 million people aged 65 and over live alone and over two million, or nearly half (49 percent) of all people aged 75 and over live alone. 30 per cent of pensioners say they would like to go out more often given the opportunity and 41 per cent of people aged 65 and over in the UK feel out of touch with the pace of modern life. Twelve per cent say they feel cut off from society. If people in later life are not become even more isolated, a reinvented, community focused, mixed generational high street environment could work to alleviate impacts of loneliness.
The lack of elderly-friendly shops could cost retailers billions
As people age, their mobility begins to suffer, and this can lead to an adverse effect on people’s lives. The prevalence of disability rises with age, with 45% of adults over State Pension age with some form of disability. The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) forecasts a rise of 86 per cent in the number of people aged 65 and over by 2030.
There is no single agreed measure of disability and many data sources rely on an individual’s self-perception of their disability through surveys. In the most recent 2016 survey by Euan’s guide – The Access Survey, it was reported that only 35 per cent of survey respondents said they were generally satisfied with the level of accessibility provision they found at various venues.
Mobility and access
The kind of venues in which respondents felt they had good accessibility were hospitals and healthcare, public and council buildings, museums and art galleries, cinemas and theatres. However, pubs, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops were generally recorded as having poor accessibility. 79 per cent found that shops were difficult to access. 87 per cent of respondents were concerned about getting into and around the shopping venue. The survey found that when accessibility is good, 96 per cent of respondents reported that they would be likely or very likely to return to the venue.
The ICL-UK “Missing Billions” report found that having mobility issues is associated with a severe drop in spending. 13.6 per cent less on eating out, 15.9 per cent on clothing, 12 per cent on leisure – regardless of income and other socio-demographic factors. ICL-UK then estimated that if households aged over 50 with mobility issues were to spend as much on food, eating out, clothing and leisure as people of the same age and with the same socio-economic characteristics but without a mobility issue, that could result in an increase in annual spending between £0.5 and £3.8 billion.
A more age friendly high street could, therefore, substantially increase retailer’s turnover. Forecast indicates that in 2030 retailers who are not elderly friendly could be losing annual spending of between £0.58bn and £4.5bn. Those that are will be reaping the benefits. The forecasts take into account the increase in the elderly population to 2030; the additional spending power of the Baby Boomers, and the increasing incidence of mobility problems.
Freely adapted from a Local Government Information Unit review of the recent report by the Centre for Future Studies Innovation Centre at Kent University, sponsored by Anchor. This report argues that it is the older generations who will be an economic force to be reckoned with in shaping the reinvention of the high street. All data taken from the report pages.