£1bn high street spending boost if we adapt towns and cities for people with dementia

27 October 2022

People with dementia are being let down by the high street, retailers and the financial services industry. However, if steps were taken to make services more accessible for this group, they could bring in nearly £1bn to the UK economy, argues a research report published today from the International Longevity Centre UK (ILC).

Retail Therapy, from the ILC, the UK’s specialist think tank on the impact of longevity on society, finds while people with dementia list shopping as one of their favourite activities, one in four give up it up after their diagnosis. Three in five people with dementia believe shops aren’t doing enough to help them.

The ILC estimates that if shops, banks and leisure activities were more welcoming to people living with dementia and other cognitive impairments, the economy could be boosted by £948 million a year via spending by this group.

Retail Therapy, published by the ILC with the support of abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, reveals that people with dementia often:

  • struggle to get to and around the shops and buy what they want and need
  • find shopping is stressful
  • are misunderstood or disrespected by staff and other customers
  • experience and worry about financial abuse and people taking advantage of them

The report finds key changes could make a real difference for people with dementia who want to enjoy shopping. It calls for:

  • regulators to recommend shops provide training for front-line staff to understand how to support people with dementia in shops.
  • shops and online services to explore adopting ‘slow shopping’, developing ways for people to take their time to buy things.
  • technological innovations such as a hidden disabilities digital lanyard could easily identify and support people with dementia and cognitive impairments to shop safely.
  • transport providers to better provide real-time transport information to help people with dementia to navigate around towns and cities. 
  • a review of the Lasting Power of Attorney process which will help people with dementia enjoy their money more, while dealing with the risk of financial abuse.

During a year-long research and innovation project, ILC interviewed people with dementia, and their carers, and organised focus groups and innovation workshops with business professionals representing high street chains, the financial services industry and the transport sector.

David Sinclair, Chief Executive of the International Longevity Centre said:

“We need to harness the potential of existing and emerging technology to make life easier for people with dementia and their carers.

“ILC heard that for many people in the early stages of dementia, online shopping and contactless payments were often brilliant. Technology should be part of the solution, not the problem, but as one carer pointed out, too many people with dementia are “sitting ducks” to financial abuse.

“But the solutions aren’t just about utilising high-tech, or about changing laws. We need to be nicer and more supportive of people around us who might take a bit longer to navigate around shops and make choices.”

Vivienne Jackson, Programme Manager at abrdn Financial Fairness Trust, said:

“People with dementia should be able to enjoy shopping and leisure, activities we all value, without worrying about things going wrong or financial abuse. This report calls for government, retailers, and financial services to take practical action to support people with dementia to buy what they need and enjoy. In doing so, business leaders and decision-makers could significantly boost spending on the high street, and create a fairer society for all.”

Download the report