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Felixstowe: Staff at East of England Co-op wear futuristic ‘ageing’ suits to understand challenges of dementia

PUBLISHED: 19:09 30 October 2014 | UPDATED: 19:09 30 October 2014

Darren Wash, store manager of the Co-operative shop in Felixstowe, walks through the store wearing gear to simulate how people with dementia feel and see things.

Darren Wash, store manager of the Co-operative shop in Felixstowe, walks through the store wearing gear to simulate how people with dementia feel and see things.

Supermarket staff donned a ‘spaceman-esque’ ageing suit to do their daily shop in a bid to understand the challenges of dementia.

Darren Wash, store manager of the Co-operative shop in Felixstowe, walks through the store wearing gear to simulate how people with dementia feel and see things.Darren Wash, store manager of the Co-operative shop in Felixstowe, walks through the store wearing gear to simulate how people with dementia feel and see things.

The first Shopping in their Shoes exercise took place at the East of England Co-op in Felixstowe yesterday.

Representatives across the business were invited to take part in the challenge which sees participants gather a basic shopping list and paying for the items whilst wearing a GERT suit, created by University Campus Suffolk.

The suit ages the wearer by 30 years and replicates a number of age-related conditions including visual impairments, hearing loss, joint stiffness, loss of strength and reduced co-ordination.

Store manager Darren Wash took part in the futuristic challenge, he said: “The experience really highlighted to me the isolation and vulnerability that some of our older customers might feel – it’s not just the everyday challenges of shopping, but also the importance of connecting with other people.

“It also made me think about the practical ways that we can make the shopping experience better for all our customers – whether it’s customer service or the process of paying and packing at the tills.”

Willie Cruickshank of the Norfolk and Suffolk Dementia Alliance and UCS facilitators were on hand to debrief participants as they said the experience of ‘ageing’ could be quite emotional.

The East of England Co-op has pledged to become a dementia friendly retailer as they embark on a programme of colleague training throughout their stores in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

Minnie Moll, executive officer at the East of England Co-op, said it was important that all of their customers were able to comfortably shop in their stores, including those with age-related conditions or dementia.

Shopping in their Shoes is part of an extensive Health Care Partnerships project which has seen the EoE Co-op invest over £500,000 into community programmes that promote health and well-being through a range of physical activities, targeted support services and education.

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