As our Maine towns and villages are being transitioned from a rural-based culture to a suburban lifestyle, is much thought given to planning for older populations?

There are a lot of things I’d like to see when planners roll out the blueprints and flash their laser pointers onto the maps.

I’d like to see where the rest rooms are located. Are they near the doors or does a person have to meander around to the back of the shoe section? Are there easy-to-read signs posted at entrances? While the curb may be “handicap” accessible, is there a smooth walk into the store with no surprising little grids or bumps?

I want to see plenty of benches, with soft seats, throughout the store, where a person can sit down, check their shopping list, and catch their breath. If big box developers are going to require us to walk miles to find a pair of socks, they ought to make the trip easy.

Where are the water fountains? Is there one to serve hundreds, or are there several located at logical places. And let’s have a maintenance person make sure the fountain area is kept clean! A sign that says “no spitting” doesn’t invite drinking.

How about designating one day a week as Senior Citizen Day. More help could be hired for the checkout lines so we wouldn’t have to stand, leaning on those unwieldy carts. Special bargain prices would pull in a lot of customers and these days could help people make plans to carpool – saving on gasoline. If we’re going to drive, we might have to cut back on our food!

Why couldn’t there be a small area set aside for seniors? I can see the sign now, welcoming us to the soft seats and free coffee. A stack of the store’s flyers with sale items highlighted in extra large text would be handy for us to look at. We might even buy something!

In the clothing section, let’s have a few places to sit and try on shoes. It’s really difficult to try on sneakers if you have to stand on one leg while trying to take off a shoe and put another on. Especially when those little plastic ties are keeping the pair inseparable. This might be a subversive plot to keep the Returns counter in operation.

It’s kind of a help-yourself-world today, in most of the big box stores. The associates or affiliates, or whatever they’re called, need to arrange themselves near the places where they can really help. Not clustered around the fishing lure section, but near where the big stuff is. Ever try to get an ironing board into one of those carts? Or reach the boxed toaster, way up there on that shelf? Small children skipping along the aisles stand a pretty good chance of meeting the edge of a carton.

Too bad the big developers don’t have a bunch of seniors on their planning staffs. Nowadays, with the cost of gas so dear, we have to plan all our shopping in one trip. Have a good night’s sleep, put the list into our pocket, pack a few snacks and a bottle of water and say a prayer that the store hasn’t redesigned their departments since our last visit.

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