As with any moment of mass panic (justified or otherwise), the Coronavirus has inspired people to rush out to grocery stores to buy up the supplies they need to successfully survive while quarantining. While supermarkets and food distributors contend that their supply chains remain strong, crowded aisles pose a particular threat to elderly folks who are most susceptible to suffering the worst effects of Coronavirus.
Luckily, some grocery chains around the globe are stepping up with special “elderly-only” shopping hours meant to help senior citizens get the supplies they need without exposing themselves to crowds and any elevated Coronavirus risk.
In Belfast, one location of UK supermarket chain Iceland (confusing, I know) has set aside the hour between 8:00 and 9:00 AM for senior shoppers only, giving them a more relaxing way to stock up amid a very stressful time.
In speaking with TODAY, manager Danny Burke said the early morning hour was selected because that’s when Iceland locations are at their best.
“The store is always cleanest and tidiest (in the morning),” Burke told TODAY. “The elderly will be able to come in and they won’t be intimidated by the big crowds and people pushing around trying to grab anything.”
Though there’s no direct evidence that social media inspired the policy, calls to give the elderly some special shopping time have been widespread in recent days. Long lines at supermarkets, empty shelves, and even fights among shoppers have made headlines, and make a fraught time already more difficult for some.
While no country, state, or city has yet made this policy mandatory, other grocery stores around the world have followed suit. DeCicco & Sons, a New York state grocery chain with locations near hard-hit areas in Westchester county, has set aside 8:00 to 8:30 AM every morning as a special shopping time for “senior customers and immunocompromised families.”
On an even bigger scale, Australian grocery chain Woolworths has said its stores would host a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly and disabled from 7:00 to 8:00 AM, where permitted. That should hopefully help Australians get everything they need without the hassle that can result at times like these.
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.— Woolworths (@woolworths) March 15, 2020
It appears that Stop & Shop locations in the Boston area will also adopt this policy, creating a window from 6:00 to 7:30 AM for customers over the age of 60.
JUST IN: Stop & Shop announces it's creating AM hours specifically geared for customers 60+— WCVB-TV Boston (@WCVB) March 16, 2020
Stores will open from 6am-7:30am ONLY for customers over the age of 60 who the CDC and local health officials say are most vulnerable. #Coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/ovlfbBFQh9
Now is a time to be looking out for each other. Don’t hoard stuff you don’t really need, and don’t fight people in the grocery store over toilet paper. This is probably going to be rough, but it’s not going to last forever. Hopefully the widespread adoption of shopping hours aimed to help the elderly and immunocompromised can make a tough time at least a little bit easier.