My mum had dementia for many years. In fact I think she had it well before I really knew. Her behaviour could be a bit odd sometimes.
I liked to take her shopping, it was something that she had always enjoyed and I wanted to keep that part of her life going. As the dementia got worse it became a more and more stressful experience both for her and for me. She became increasingly separated from the ‘real’ world and would often get very confused and anxious when we were out. I was trying to mediate between my mother and the staff in the shop, who were not always understanding. I also had my own feelings of distress, helplessness and concern for my mother as I saw how the disease was affecting her. I used to wonder if there was a way to make the shopping experience a better one.
I came up with the idea of Slow Shopping, providing a welcoming and safe environment for anyone who needed to take more time to do their shopping. Slow Shopping is inclusive and caters for those who suffer from anxiety or mental illness, those who struggle with communication or literacy, the elderly, those with dementia and all those who suffer from visible, invisible or intellectual disabilities.
Slow Shopping is a not for profit company offering an innovative way of organising the retail environment so that it can deliver resources in terms of time and support to those who need it most. Slow Shopping enhances the shopping experience and the staff working experience. It is explicit about what it offers so that people who might otherwise not feel that they can go shopping because they don’t want to bother anyone or they feel anxious can have a try. Slow Shopping achieves this by advocating dedicated times within the week where store staff are aware of the particular needs of their shoppers and allows them time and space. Chairs are available as well as help points in the store. Customers are not identified as having additional needs and there are no specialist aisles or separation which can be the source of more stress.
Almost 18 months ago I decided to find out if the idea would work in practise and rang my local Sainsbury’s supermarket to ask if they would allow me to pilot the idea. Slow Shopping has now been running in the store for over a year and the idea has spread to several other stores. I am now working with Marks and Spencer, ASDA and TESCO.
The impact on customers has been truly humbling.
Shopping is such an ordinary activity in our society and it encompasses a wide and complex number of skills and opportunities. It is a way of participating in the everyday, a way of making choices about one’s own health and happiness, it encompasses financial skills, literacy skills and numeracy skills. It also stimulates all the five senses. It can be a truly democratic activity which is available to young and old, wealthy and poor, those who are well or those living with illness. The first steps to wellness may be a trip to the shops.
I am developing training resources for stores to support the programme so that there are no barriers to retailers adopting the scheme.
If you know anyone who might benefit from Slow Shopping or know of a retailer who might be interested in adopting the scheme please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to contribute to the development of the project please go the to the crowdfunding web page