My parents, like most people in their late seventies, are terrified of contracting COVID-19. Though they claim to have stockpiled enough food and essentials to get over the viral hump, the likelihood of everything lasting thirty days or more is slim, and I worry they will drag their stubborn asses to the store (without telling me) when the well runs dry.
Social distancing during a pandemic is an absolute must, but what happens when your parents, grandparents or a disabled loved one runs out of milk, bread, or — DUN DUN DUUUUN!!! — toilet paper and can’t find what they need on Amazon Prime?
Starting March 17, Australian supermarket giant Woolworths will be hosting a dedicated shopping hour at select stores from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m., exclusive to elderly and disabled people with government-issued disability and pension cards.
According to a press release, the revised schedule is a direct response to the “chaotic panic buying and hoarding of essential items by other greedy shoppers, which has left older people struggling to get their hands on food and toiletries.”
The program will continue until this Friday (March 20). At that point, Woolworths will re-evaluate its opening procedure and determine the next step.
“While we’ll continue to do our very best to restock our stores during this period of unprecedented demand, we know many of our elderly customers have been missing out on essential items when they shop,” said Claire Peters, Woolworths Supermarkets Managing Director.
“This temporary measure will give them, and those with a disability, the opportunity to shop before our stores officially open – helping them obtain the essential items they need most in a less crowded environment.”
If only the stores in the US were as forward-thinking. While Meals on Wheels is a great way for low-income families to keep from starving, finding enough volunteers to go door-to-door, supplying every disabled body or person over the age of 60 with food, prescriptions, and household items is highly improbable. It is also an unnecessary nuisance for headstrong old-timers — Sorry, Dad. — who prefer to (and are “perfectly capable” of) shopping for themselves.
Instacart same-day grocery delivery and pickup is another option for tech-savvy seniors living in the US to pick up supplies. Unfortunately, the service is not free, and those living on a fixed income may have a hard time justifying the cost for this sort of convenience.
I know what you’re thinking: What about free curbside service?
Though a lot of retailers — Target, Walmart, CVS, etc. — now offer complimentary curbside delivery, many elders, particularly those with trust issues, limited funds, or no internet, will likely miss this hands-free opportunity and go to the store alone.
The question remains: If grocery stores can limit the amount of toilet paper people are allowed to buy, why can’t they introduce a dedicated shopping hour for the elderly? I mean, who else wants to shop at 7 a.m.?