Studies worldwide are clear; loneliness is a real problem for old people with over 50% of over 55s suffering from some level of loneliness. Reading this data led the people at Jumbo Supermarket, Vlijmen, to look at ways to combat these feelings of being alone.
The team decided to set up a social corner in the store and started the “All Together Coffee Corner” where people can sit and chat and also the “Chat Checkout” where the checkout operator can spend some time talking to the customer. The move has proved incredibly popular with shoppers.
The special area was opened by the Dutch Minister Hugo de Jonge, alongside 94-year-old Christien Smits. The corner represents a safe space for older people to meet and is staffed by volunteers from the “Alles Voor Mekaar” Foundation.
These volunteers have made the undertaking very successful – they spend time chatting with elders, helping them shop and doing other small chores.
Jumbo Supermarket certainly achieved its aims; creating a positive and happy place for older people to shop.
The “Chat Checkout”, has also proved to be a great success. The cashier can spend time talking to older customers to help them overcome feelings of loneliness. The line is kept completely separate from the others so other customers are not inconvenienced as they go about their day.
The idea of the special corner and checkout was the brainchild of Alexander Van Weert, who wanted to create a space where people would look out for each other. The volunteers come to the store regularly, helping customers shop and chatting over a cup of coffee. Many have become good friends.
The innovation makes a refreshing change from supermarkets who will often just focus on cutting costs and increasing profits.
Unlike many, the Jumbo has not moved towards self-service checkouts but instead has offered a more human approach. Many elders find it hard to cope with computers and new technology and will often need assistance, time and patience; they find this at the Jumbo.
One of the key issues facing our society is the increased loneliness faced by older people. The only way to combat this is to provide opportunities for human interaction.
Jumbo supermarkets have certainly gone above and beyond, showing that having empathy and using that to create small improvements and initiatives will go a long way. Their efforts will hopefully inspire other supermarkets to think about similar projects.