Seniors use caution when shopping

OKEECHOBEE — Recently, many stores instituted a senior shopping hour in an effort to make shopping safer for some of our most vulnerable citizens. In some cases, though, this effort may have backfired as stores are packed with shoppers during this time period. In many cases, there are more shoppers during senior hour than there are during any other hour of the day.

Last week, when Publix had its first senior shopping hour, there were over 160 shoppers, according to one employee, and every cart in the store was in use with shoppers waiting in line to use them.

Seniors Diane and Tom Timmons were among those shoppers, and Mrs. Timmons said she appreciated the thought and effort, but the experience was negative, so she will not be using senior shopping hours anymore. She finds when she goes a little later, there are fewer shoppers and they tend to keep their distance, allowing each other to keep a safe social distance.

Joanne McDuffie, also a senior citizen, said she went to a grocery store early one morning in order to avoid crowds, and it was not too busy, but she is having trouble finding the things she needs. Right after she arrived, the store received a delivery of toilet paper and she was relieved that she would be able to buy some, but before she could get to the aisle where it was sold, it was gone. She passed one man with a cart overflowing with paper goods. She asked a cashier why they allowed him to buy it all and was told they did not like to upset the customers, so they did not limit purchases.

Dena Baker said she has not bothered with the senior hour. “I just can’t get stressed over shopping. I’m concerned about it, but I just don’t shop as often, and I keep my distance. I’m more worried about the kids being exposed … The complacency of people around here is scary, though.”

Cap Reutebuch also says he is not really worried. He depends on his daughter for rides and because of her work schedule, he cannot always go during the senior shopping times. “I do take safety precautions. I wear a mask and wipe the handle of the scooters or shopping carts,” he said.

Some seniors are even more cautious. Ruth Taylor said she has not left her house since March 16. Her daughter doesn’t want her out there. “She picks up whatever I need, and that’s OK.”

Mary Joyner has tried the senior hours but, like Mr. and Mrs. Timmons, said it wasn’t for her. She knew the stores were trying to help, but there were too many people there, and it made her feel more vulnerable, so she goes later in the day when she thinks fewer people will be there. She also goes less often than she used to.

“I used to go to town a couple of times a week. Now, I make do without. This is not new to some of us,” she said.

“We just have to remind ourselves what it used to be like when we were young.”

“We used to stay home and spend time with our families. We didn’t go to the store every time we had a craving for something. We ate what we had in the house. We will just have to get used to doing that again. Now, for some of the younger people, I guess this is new. It will be harder for them to get used to,” she said.

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