Retail Therapy Genuinely Therapeutic – For Taiwanese Seniors

Apr 27, 2011
Bernice Hurst

As Sheena Hastings
of the Yorkshire Post put it,
“shopping may be good for your health and
even prolong life.” She
further explained, “You
don’t have to suffer … shopping mania … to know that it’s
fun. If you’re feeling low but don’t have much cash to spare, a
little something new like a lipstick, an item of underwear or a paperback can
put a smile back on your face. That’s why we call it retail therapy.”

research conducted by Taiwan’s Institute of Population Health
Sciences, Ms. Hastings noted that “Even having adjusted for physical
and mental infirmity, men and women who shopped daily lived longer than those
who didn’t shop at all. … Those who shopped regularly lived longer
than those who shopped just once a week or less, and those who shopped every
day were likely to live longest.” As for reasons, she says the findings
suggest, “Shopping
may encompass companionship, exercise and an opportunity to maintain a healthy

A more detailed report of the study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community
Health (JECH) reports its conclusion that “Shopping behaviour favorably
predicts survival. Highly frequent shopping may favor men more than women.
Shopping captures several dimensions of personal well-being, health and security
as well as contributing to the community’s cohesiveness and economy and may
represent or actually confer increased longevity.”

Studying some 2,000
Taiwanese men and women aged over 65 who all lived in their own home, “took
into account demographics, socioeconomic status, health behaviours, shopping
frequencies, physical function and cognitive function, linking them to official
death records for almost 10 years,” according
to JECH. Explaining that “active ageing is a key to healthy ageing,” results
also showed “elderly who shopped every day have 27 percent less risk
of death than the least frequent shoppers. Men benefited more from everyday
shopping than women.”

David Oliver, visiting professor of medicine for older people
at City University, London, told the BBC the findings “made sense.” Sarah
Jane Robinson, principal lecturer in psychology at Huddersfield University
told the Yorkshire Post, “It’s not so much about the shopping itself,
but moving around, seeing people and enjoying the sheer unpredictability of
what might happen when you mosey around the local grocery shop or go down town.”

Discussion Questions: What do you think of the notion of shopping helping people live longer? How can retailers further enhance or ease the shopping experience for the elderly?

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5 Comments on "Retail Therapy Genuinely Therapeutic – For Taiwanese Seniors"

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Ryan Mathews
10 years 20 days ago

There are clearly advantages to staying busy, planing ahead, walking rather than sitting and having positive social interactions, so I guess I can follow the logic here.

If retailers were trying to accommodate the elderly they would need rest areas which promoted conversation and–in most cases–a massive redefinition of retail service.

Given the service levels at too many retailers, shopping might prove so frustrating it wouldn’t help you to live longer, nor would you want to.

Warren Thayer
10 years 20 days ago

I believe it would be impossible for a woman to die in a shoe store, or a man to die in a hardware store. In my final years, when I’m at death’s door, I’ll ask to be wheeled into the power tools aisle. Cripes, I may just be immortal….

Tim Henderson
Tim Henderson
10 years 20 days ago
I totally agree with these findings. One of the keys to aging successfully is maintaining good physical, emotional and cognitive health. Shopping for more stuff doesn’t help maintain and improve such health. It’s the activities and interactions that encompass shopping that are key–and those can come via a variety of activities, including shopping. Walking to the store, walking the store, interacting with sales associates, running into old friends, shopping with family/friends, learning about new products, and even researching products online–all such shopping-related activities help aging consumers maintain the health needed to age successfully. It’s well-known that the aging demo is growing faster than any other demo (thanks largely to the Boomers, improved medicine and longer, healthier lifestyles). And those consumers are remaining more active and spending money. If that isn’t reason enough for retailers to pay attention, then add in the fact that this industry is a key employer of aging consumers and an industry where older folks are known to visit stores regularly for socialization. This study’s findings offer even more incentive for merchants… Read more »
Gene Detroyer
10 years 20 days ago

While this makes sense, it is still a silly study. Would we bet that those who play cards, exercise, go to senior clubs, take classes, etc., every day live longer than those who stay at home? I would. This is a matter of mindset and a way people approach living (and dying). If you sit home waiting to die, you will. If you go out and live every day, you will do a lot better.

Odonna Mathews
Odonna Mathews
10 years 16 days ago

It’s been shown that the social experience of shopping, especially for seniors, can extend life or at least make people happier and healthier. And the fact that people need to move around and then have the enjoyment of seeing what’s offered at retail makes sense to me.


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