As the coronavirus pandemic unfolded, it quickly became clear that everyone was at risk. It attacked men and women, children and adults, the rich and the poor. Intensive and ongoing research, however, showed that some are more vulnerable to the virus than others, including the elderly and people with underlying medical issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and respiratory illness.
With people stockpiling on necessities for a necessary period of isolation, grocery stores are helping the elderly and other high risk groups by giving them exclusive shopping hours.
In the wake of the coronavirus, fears of infection have triggered a mad rush in supermarkets and grocery stores all over the world. High volume crowds in the stores have raised concern regarding increased transmission of the disease. It would also be difficult for the elderly and people with compromised immune systems to jostle others to get much-needed supplies.
Recognizing these risks, some grocery stores have set up ‘elderly only’ shopping hours so that seniors and people with illnesses can get their supermarket staples in peace. Iceland, a popular grocery chain in the United Kingdom and across Europe, is giving seniors a chance to shop from 8:00am to 9:00am each day.
According to Danny Burke, manager of the Iceland grocery store at the Kennedy Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland, this move aims to create a safer and more comfortable shopping environment for older customers. He said, “The store is fully cleaned every morning, anyway, so the store is always at its cleanest and tidiest (in the morning). The elderly will be able to come in and they won’t be intimidated by the big crowds and people rushing around trying to grab anything.”
Setting an exclusive time for the elderly will allow them to get that they need and avoid the massive crowds in supermarkets. Burke added, “Busy would be an understatement. It is carnage. I mean, there’s still food left. People can still get food, but it’s the obvious stuff which is disappearing, the toilet rolls, the long-life grocery items like tins and pastas and ready-made noodles.”
Grocery stores in other countries are giving older clients the same opportunity. DeCicco & Sons, a small grocery chain with locations across New York state, showed its concern for the community by announcing “special shopping times” daily from 8 to 8:30 a.m. for “senior customers and immunocompromised families.” Other grocery stores in the U.S., such as Woolworths, Coles, and H-E-B, also began introducing early opening hours for seniors in response to the pandemic.
In Australia, a popular grocery store chain called Woolworths made a similar announcement on Twitter, stating, “We’re launching a dedicated shopping hour in our stores to help support the needs of the elderly & people with disability in the community. From tomorrow until at least Friday, we’ll be opening exclusively for them to shop from 7-8am, where permitted.”
Businesses in Canada are also prioritizing seniors and people with health concerns. Galen Weston, executive chairman of Loblaw Companies, said that some of the company’s Loblaws grocery stores and Shopper Drug Mart pharmacies would open their doors early for seniors and people living with disabilities so they can shop before the crowds.
He stated, “We all agree that food and drug stores are essential services and we must do what we need to in order to keep them operating and serving every community in the days and weeks ahead.”
In Toronto, most of Pusateri’s Fine Foods stores are opening earlier to exclusively serve the elderly and those at a higher risk of infection. “We ask that all of our guests respect this dedicated shopping time for those in our community that are most vulnerable,” the store management requested. In Newfoundland and Labrador, Colemans Grocery provided a similar initiative. In a statement, the grocery store chain said, “This is designed to help ensure these customers are able to shop in less crowded aisles in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.”
In West Vancouver, the Fresh St. Market offers “Seniors Shopping Hours” on specific days, and in Edmonton, Sobeys Belmont set aside stock of certain items, such as toilet paper and other products, specifically for seniors.
Earlier and exclusive shopping hours give older adults and people with underlying health conditions, who are more susceptible to the coronavirus, a chance to shop in a safer, cleaner, and less crowded environment. In these challenging times, everyone needs to extend a helping hand and and care for the more vulnerable members of society.