As senior citizens deal with anxiety about the coronavirus, grocery store chains and other retailers have come up with a way to ease their fears: shopping times reserved exclusively for them.
Walgreens, Costco and Trader Joe's joined a growing list of retailers dedicating early morning shopping hours for older customers.
Starting March 24, Walgreens will carve out senior shopping time every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. Walgreens also announced customers 55 years and older will get special discounts on Tuesdays.
Costco customers aged 60 or older will be able to shop exclusively between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The members-only chain also began expanded hours on March 24.
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"The pharmacy will also be open during this hour; however the food court will maintain its normal operating schedule," Costco wrote in a Facebook post. "These hours apply to all locations except the Business Centers, which will remain open during regular hours."
Trader Joe's started offering a senior-only shopping hour on Monday. The specialty grocery chain has reserved for the 9 a.m to 10 a.m. shopping hour daily for elderly customers.
The theory is that allowing seniors to shop among smaller crowds could reduce their chances of acquiring the virus and give them first crack at buying hand sanitizer and other products that have been hard to find because of panic shopping.
Aldi stores nationwide will open at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays and reserve the first hour of business for senior citizens, expectant mothers and those with underlying health concerns.
Discount retailer Big Lots announced the first hour of each day will be open for senior citizens and vulnerable shoppers.
Whole Foods announced on March 18 its stores will be open solely to shoppers who are 60 and older for the first hour daily. Visit the Whole Foods website for a full list of store hours.
Walmart said it will host an hourlong "senior shopping event" every Tuesday for customers 60 and older, one hour before stores open to the general public.
Target has set aside an hour every Wednesday morning for vulnerable shoppers, including the elderly and those with underlying medical conditions.
Albertsons Companies -- the parent company for stores like ACME, Safeway and Jewel Osco -- said in a press release that its more than 2,200 nationwide stores will reserve every Tuesday and Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. for senior citizens, pregnant women, immunocompromised individuals and other at-risk groups to shop.
"We are sensitive to the fact that everyone is anxious to make sure they have the items they need, and we also know that everyone wants their neighbors to stay safe and healthy, too," the statement read. "We thank our customers in advance for their compassion and understanding toward their neighbors and friends, and in helping us maintain this temporary operations guideline."
The company also advised shoppers to check their local store's website for exact opening times.
Goodlettsville, Tennessee-based discount retailer Dollar General announced last week that it would dedicate the first hour of its daily store operations to senior citizens in response to the new coronavirus.
Dollar General said that starting March 17, it is strongly encouraging younger customers to let senior citizens get needed supplies and avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods later in the day.
"We appreciate our customers’ understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices," said Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.