It might sound like an odd place to seek solace, but shopping in a supermarket can be a surprisingly comforting experience.
After all, you know exactly what you’re getting when you step inside your local store, from the exact location of your favourite food to the particular smell that greets you when you enter the frozen aisle.
But even better, supermarkets can offer comfort in the form of conversation, whether you fancy a brief chat with the friendly security guard or an indepth catch-up with the lady who runs checkout number 12. For many, supermarkets represent a place to have a natter and a gossip, and connect with the local community.
For this reason, supermarkets in the UK are now being urged to introduce ‘slow lanes’ to the check out areas of their stores, in order to give elderly people living in the area a chance to properly chat with staff and each other whenever they pop in for their groceries.
The move comes from researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, who last week published a report saying the option of a slower way of shopping would help attract more elderly customers, by giving them a chance to enjoy the “social aspect” of supermarkets.
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The report indicated that many elder people feel “disenfranchised” by the family-friendly discounts offered at most stores, such as two-for-one offers of loaves of bread and milk, and that the entire concept of visiting a supermarket was at risk due to the rise in popularity of online shopping.
To counter this, the report also recommended that supermarkets introduce more seating and toilets to their stores, to make them a more comfortable and welcoming place to visit. It also recommended that the stores encourage elderly people to visit at quieter times, by introducing deals that could be used in the middle of the day.
Speaking to The Daily Mail, one of the researchers, Professor Wendy Wills, said: "Older people are more likely to have a wide range of factors working against them when it comes to sourcing, buying and preparing food. Industry and policymakers have a real opportunity to introduce practical and cost-effective measures that support older people to enjoy a healthy, affordable and safe diet, and to develop, or continue with, a positive relationship with food.
"Failure to act could result in older people's food security, and therefore their health and wellbeing, declining at a faster rate, placing greater pressure on the NHS and care providers."
Here in the UK, it feels like there has never been a better time to introduce slow lanes to our supermarkets, with recent figures from Age UK highlighting the isolation faced by pensioners all over the country.
According to the charity, 200,000 elderly people haven’t had a single conversation with their friends or family for an entire month, while some 3.9 million pensioners now consider the TV to be their main form of company
And sadly isolation isn’t something that affects only pensioners, with Britain recently being dubbed “the loneliness capital of Europe”, as residents of all ages are less likely to have strong friendships or know their neighbours here than anywhere else in the EU.
With this in mind, turning the daily chore of visiting a supermarket into a social opportunity can be no bad thing, particularly if it helps quash the loneliness faced by both elderly people and the rest of the UK.
And in our frenetic world of instant messaging and social media, perhaps we could all do with living life in the supermarket slow lane every once in a while.