Supermarkets in a number of countries have implemented measures to help the elderly buy the food they need in the wake of hoarding brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
With many finding shelves emptied when they turn up to shop, thanks to panic-buying, a number of chains and retailers are now reserving shopping times exclusively for older people.
In the UK, most major supermarket chains have launched some sort of scheme. Waitrose said the first hour of opening at its stores will be “priority shopping time for the elderly, the vulnerable and those who look after them”, while Tesco is prioritising in the same way between 9 and 10 in the morning on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
Supermarket delivery services across Britain have been overwhelmed with demand, making physical journeys to the shops necessary in many cases.
Similar measures have been taken in Spain, which is the second most-affected country in Europe. Condis announced today, March 20, that its stores are reserving the hour between 9 and 10 a.m. for people over the age of 65.
In the US, a number of chains have adopted similar policies, with mixed results. While the idea has worked well in smaller stores, big crowds at larger stores have made social distancing difficult.
“If you didn’t have coronavirus before you got there, you probably do now,” said one shopper, Roger Miller, 82, after he arrived on Thursday morning at a Stop & Shop grocery store in North Providence with about 200 other older people.
In South Africa, the supermarket chain Pick n Pay said it will open all its shops an hour early every Wednesday for shoppers over 65.
Similar measures have been announced at some shops for key workers, such as this Carrefour in Paris which is open between 8-8.30am for police, firefighters, and medical workers.
There have been calls for similar schemes to be implemented in the UK, with many NHS workers pleading for people to stop stripping shelves and leaving them with nothing when they finish their shifts.