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Retailers hope to ease struggles for senior shoppers

Grocery shopping already can be a challenging task for many seniors. In the wake of the COVID-19 public health disaster, it can be outright dangerous.

Large corporations are showing compassion for potentially vulnerable members of society by letting seniors have an exclusive time to shop or have groceries delivered to their homes.

Many national chain stores, including Dollar General and Walmart, have begun to offer a “senior hour” of shopping, where only those 55 and older can enter the establishment.

Through April 28, Walmart stores will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers 60 and older one hour before stores open, during which pharmacies and vision centers will be open, according to a news release.

“A senior hour is beneficial because they won’t have to deal with some of the people that don’t respect their space,” Richwood resident Mark Catalena said. “Senior citizens move slower and some people will rush the store and not stop for anybody else.”

On March 16, Dollar General “strongly encouraged” people to allow the first hour of store operations to be “dedicated solely for the shopping needs of senior customers, who are one of the groups most vulnerable to the COVID-19 coronavirus.

This makes sense to Angleton resident Holly Harris, she said.

“Normally older people get up early and they’re just buying, I believe, what they need while other people are hoarding,” Harris said. “A senior hour gives them the time to get in and get what few things they need.”

Often, stores are stocked when opening and this gives seniors opportunities to purchase items that were not in stock the previous day.

“Last week the stores were really crowded and the lines were really long to check out,” Angleton resident Dottie Duby said. “I think that when people hoard they’re not thinking of other people. When you hoard, it puts panic in other people, too.”

H-E-B, Walmart, Kroger and other grocery retailers are offering curbside pickup for groceries in stock.

H-E-B opened a senior citizen hotline for those 60 and older to order groceries daily from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact the H-E-B Senior Support Line at 1-833-397-0080 or visit favordelivery.com/seniors.

While hoarding makes shopping especially difficult for seniors, it affects everyone shopping for necessities.

“I have been to the store twice in the last week looking for hand sanitizers and hamburger meat and couldn’t find it,” Duby said. “Of course, toilet paper you can’t find, I don’t understand the hoarding. I just don’t.”

Although residents in nursing homes are confined to their care centers, many seniors who live alone must leave the house to grocery shop.

“I don’t like people having to do things for me right now because there’s going to come a day where they have to,” Harris said. “As long as I can do what I am able to do, such as going to the store, I’ll do it as long as I can.”

Being stuck at home will have a bigger effect on those who get out frequently, Harris said.

“Staying at home is not hard on me because I’ve always been a homebody,” Harris said. “I don’t go out that much anyways. However, I’m sure it is much more difficult for social people.”

The coronavirus can live on surfaces from many hours up to a few days, according to the World Health Organization. Residents are encouraged to touch only the things they will purchase at stores.

“I think that people who are more susceptible to the virus could be in danger going to the store,” Harris said. “I think they should have someone get their things for them.”