On Tuesday, 17 March retail giant Pick‘n Pay announced that it would be opening all of its supermarkets and hypermarkets an hour early every Wednesday to allow elderly customers to shop in peace. The initiative, which is due to kick off on Wednesday, 18 March, would see stores nationwide open from 7am to 8am exclusively for shoppers over the age of 65.

In a media statement, marketing executive John Bradshaw said: “A special shopping hour for pensioners was a great suggestion by our online community and we very quickly worked with our stores to make this a reality.” He continued: “All our actions are focused on supporting the well-being of our customers. We know that the coronavirus is more of a threat to older people, and it is thus especially important that our older customers limit the number of times they are in busy spaces as much as possible. This dedicated shopping hour for our elderly customers will give them exclusive use of the store.”

All our actions are focused on supporting the well-being of our customers.

At present, approximately 9% of the South African population falls in the over-60 age category which automatically qualifies them as one of the most at-risk groups as far as COVID-19 is concerned.  While there is no medical evidence that points to older individuals being more susceptible to contracting the virus, medical experts have concluded that they are more likely to suffer from severe and even life-threatening symptoms due to an aging immune system and possible underlying medical conditions.

As a nation, as communities, and as individuals we need to step up and care for, and protect, our golden citizens. The elderly have served us their entire lives: as parents, grandparents, civil servants, and economical contributors. Now, in their hour of need, it is our duty to not only calm their fears but also actively contribute towards their health and well-being as well.

Please spare a thought for the Gogo looking after all her grandchildren. Please spare a thought for the elderly gentleman manning the tuck shop at his home. Please spare a thought for the forgotten grandmother living in an old age home.

A little goes a long way

Helping the elderly and other at-risk individuals cope amidst the COVID-19 outbreak should be a top priority for everyone. There are numerous ways to lend a helping hand

  • Offer to pick up groceries/medicine or accompany an elderly person to the shop
  • Help set up an easy messaging service such as Whatsapp on an elderly individual’s phone to enable them to stay in contact with friends/loved ones
  • Encourage good hygiene practices
  • Donate food/personal care parcels
  • Check whether the individual has sufficient prescription medication/ pre-paid electricity/airtime
  • Be considerate of elderly shoppers who may not be able to move as fast as you do
  • Check up on them regularly and help them seek medical assistance when needed

No one wants to be alone

We are facing a bit of a conundrum at the moment with regards to social isolation.  On the one hand, social isolation is strongly advised in order to slow down the spread of COVID-19. On the other hand, it is a great concern among our elderly population as it has been linked to an array of conditions including high blood pressure, anxiety, a compromised immune system, cognitive decline, and even death.  While it is imperative to provide basic wellness-related services to the elderly, taking a moment to show some kindness is invaluable.

No amount of hand sanitizer or pre-cooked meals can compete with a listening ear and a few kind words. While warm embraces are currently discouraged, a sincere SMS or Whatsapp message, or a thoughtful handwritten note placed in a post box or under a door, can fill a lonely or frightened individual with new-found hope.


When you are done reading this article (and watching the video), please spare a few minutes to think about ways you can assist the elderly during this difficult time.  Remember that, if you are lucky, you too will grow old one day and become more reliant on the people around you. All we can do is hope that when we find ourselves in need, we are surrounded by the very same type of person we have chosen to be during the COVID=19 pandemic.

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Edited By: Justine Bishop