Grocery Stores Offer 'Elderly-Only' Hours To Combat Coronavirus Panic Buying

Caitlyn Clancey 18 Mar 2020

Perhaps you've been avoiding the news lately, or perhaps you've just crawled out from under a particularly big rock, so you haven't heard about the whole coronavirus thing.

Here's a quick catch-up: COVID-19 is a pneumonia-like disease that's now been declared a pandemic, and it's quickly spreading around the world, and people are freaking out.

The fear of what seems like an imminent nation-wide lockdown, like in Italy, is driving people to go to their local grocery stores and basically clear the shelves of toilet paper, canned goods, bottled water, and other essential supplies.

But all this panic-induced stockpiling isn't without its victims.

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Among those most at-risk of developing the coronavirus are elderly citizens, as well as people with serious medical conditions, such as heart or lung disease.

Because of their increased risk, seniors in particular aren't exactly eager to venture to stores and rub shoulders with younger, less susceptible individuals. This unfortunately means the elderly are missing out on some very vital items that are being swept off grocery store shelves before they even have a chance to stock up themselves.

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Thankfully, grocery store owners are taking steps to ensure everyone is able to get what they need, no matter what their age or abilities.

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As TODAY reported, several chains around the world are now offering designated "elderly-only" hours in an effort to let older customers shop without having to fight hoards of other shoppers for supplies.

This also allows these individuals the chance to stock-up in a clean, less-crowded environment so our seniors can stay as safe as possible.

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Woolworths, a popular grocery chain in Australia with some 995 stores across the country, recently announced their new specialized hours.

Locations will be opening an hour earlier to allow the elderly and anyone with disabilities to come and get their shopping done in a safe, panic-free environment.

"The move has been prompted by the unprecedented demand in supermarkets over the past week, which has seen many elderly and vulnerable people in the community missing out on vital items they may need when they shop," the chain explained on its website.

In order to take advantage of the offer, elderly customers must present a government-issued pensioners or senior card.

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The popular British supermarket chain, Iceland Foods, will also be offering designated "elderly-only" hours to its senior customers.

Between 8 and 9 AM every morning, these shoppers will be able to come and grab items they may have possibly missed out on before the stores were able to stock-up again.

“The store is fully cleaned every morning, anyway, so the store is always at its cleanest and tidiest [in the morning],” Belfast location owner, Danny Burke, 37, told TODAY. “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.”

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In America, several chains have adopted similar tactics to ensure elderly shoppers can get what they need.

DeCiccio & Sons, a small chain across New York state, announced via Instagram that they would be offering special shopping times from 8 to 8:30 AM every morning for senior customers and "immunocompromised families" to purchase their groceries.

Larger U.S. grocery chains are offering online pickup and delivery services to limit the number of customers physically shopping inside the locations.

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While stockpiling groceries can certainly offer panicked shoppers some peace of mind, officials say there's no need to hoard food and supplies.

As CNN reported, President Trump is urging Americans to resist panic-buying mountains of groceries and wants to assure everyone that the country will not soon run out of food.

"Supply chains in the United States are strong, and it is unnecessary for the American public to hoard daily essentials," a press release from White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere states.

h/t: TODAY, CNN.

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