Senior citizens are rarely considered a primary target consumer group by firms. If one looks at the advertisements one finds, senior citizens are rarely the target group. However, statistics show that we’re an ageing population. Already a good percentage of our population are over 60 years of age and the trend is that this cohort of the population will increase.
This cohort has a number of characteristics which distinguish them from other consumers. In this page we would focus on these characteristics which tend to create particular needs.
One characteristic is the limitation of mobility. As one gets older one’s mobility tends to get more limited though there are people in their nineties who have the same mobility as people 30 years younger. But even these, at some time or other will be limited in their mobility. However, today, senior citizens still want to remain active especially active consumers.
Mobility is still important to the consumer though other alternative ways of shopping such as online shopping are developing fast. The less one is mobile the more shopping outlets and other buildings need to be designed in such a way as to make it easier for the senior consumer to be able to function independently as a consumer.
Lately, Minister Deborah Schembri announced the amendment of certain building regulations which nearly go back a century when they were first enacted. We believe that this was a step in the right direction as this might open the door to bring more changes in the building regulations to reflect the needs of modern consumers.
We believe that with regards to this there is a need for an overhaul in all building regulations. First of all, technology has moved pretty fast in this sector. Today the materials we are using for building have developed beyond recognition. But technology has not limited itself to building materials but to all aspects. Secondly, the overall change needs to be spurred by a new framework. Buildings are for people and thus need to build to meet people’s needs. We feel that the present frame of mind is that people need to fit in the present structures and not that these structures should fit people.
With regards to senior consumers’ needs we feel there are three sectors which primarily need to be taken care of. The first is homes which should fit the needs of all including senior people. Today there are many senior citizens who are seeking to move from their present home to one which may help them to still live within the community actively by facilitating their mobility.
Unfortunately, while today’s buildings nearly all have certain amenities which address these needs there is still a long way to go. For example, it is very difficult to find a building where the lift is accessible without the need to manage any stairs. One should realize that in order to make government’s policy of enabling senior citizens to live an active independent life within the community a reality, senior citizens would need to make more widespread of wheelchairs. This would make it necessary to have regulations of making lifts accessible wheelchairs.
The second area where we would need new regulations is retail outlets and other community service buildings. We are sure that there are many senior citizens who would increase their economic activity if all buildings were accessible to them with ease. Three important buildings which need to be accessible immediately are pharmacies, health clinics and public buildings.
The third area where we feel there is a need to have regulations are traffic regulations and management which take care of senior citizens and people with special needs who use electrical wheel chairs. Today, and more so tomorrow, senior people still want to remain active. Technology is now providing well advanced electrical wheel chairs which could be used in the streets. However, as the situation is, it is rather dangerous to use these chairs in our streets as there is simply no regulation to manage these within the present traffic flow.
We believe that the improvements which were announced by Minister Schembri opened the door to wider changes and the public authorities should take this opportunity to overhaul building and traffic regulations to enhance mobility of senior consumers and thus make them more active consumers.