Senior shoppers told to checkout early

On the same day the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) urged Australians to stop being ageist against older people, a Victorian newspaper ran a story about shoppers calling on Baby Boomers to stop clogging up supermarket aisles.

The Herald Sun story claims working class and busy shoppers on the Mornington Peninsula are fed up with older shoppers blocking aisles with trolleys and holding them up while they chatted.

The frustrated shoppers want “Boomer hours” in supermarkets to stop seniors from shopping during peak times.

An online poll launched before the AFL Grand Final long weekend in late September called for those aged over 50 to be “more mindful” of other shoppers, especially the “working class and busy parents”.

Social media warriors debated the need for Baby Boomers to mind their manners while filling their trolleys.

Some said older shoppers should save their socialising for the cafe or park “like every other normal person”.

“This means not using the entire width of supermarket aisles as a catch-up spot to discuss what cruise Bazza’s on, or how the tenants in Jenny’s 13th investment property are really grinding her gears because they want the aircon fixed before summer. Not at 5pm on a weekday,” one resident is quoted as saying.

Not everyone agreed. One person said she tried to avoid shopping during school holidays. “Being near a few self-righteous, self-indulgent children and their parents is total pain,” she said.

“But like everything in this world you never know people’s circumstances, so I try to be considerate and kind. It goes a long way and it’s free.”

Another was less apologetic: “This old chook can’t believe you would have the audacity to post this!”

Others suggested online shopping for those not able to cope with “being part of a community”.

Woolworths and Coles introduced special shopping hours for the elderly and disabled during the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure vulnerable customers could safely fill their trolleys.

But neither of the stores is reportedly interested in bringing that system back.

The Herald Sun launched an online poll on whether Boomer hours should be reintroduced at supermarkets but, at the time of writing, only 8% of respondents agreed.

Ian Henschke’s view

National Seniors Australia Chief Advocate Ian Henschke said while it was disappointing that people held ageist views, especially coming so soon after World Ageism Awareness Day, the poll result was good.

“October 7 was World Ageism Awareness Day and I think it’s wonderful that only 8% of the people who answered the poll wanted older people’s shopping hours segregated in supermarkets.

“That to me says 90% of people are happy to get on with each other,” Mr Henschke said.

Deeply ingrained

The National Ageing Research Institute says ageist attitudes can be found across all aspects of society and can be so deeply ingrained we don’t necessarily recognise it.

“Ageism involves the devaluation of older people, infantilisation, exclusion, and reduction in power. It affects people of all ages and is considered to be a problem by more than 80% of Australians,” said NARI’s Executive Director, Professor Briony Dow.

“So much can be gained from the insights and experience of older people yet, so often, their views and perspectives are devalued – and in so doing, they are too.”

Meanwhile, the Chair of the Melbourne Ageing Research Collaboration (MARC) Community Advisory Group, Rhonda Day, says ageism underlies all the major issues affecting older people.

“All too often, we see thoughtless ageist comments and jokes which undermine confidence and dignity and diminish the economic and social contributions made by older people to society,” Ms Day said.

Too common

To reduce the high rate of elder abuse in Australia, NARI is calling for a whole-of-government approach, focussing on elder abuse in residential care and on perpetrators.

The aim is to better understand the risk factors of ageism and possible early interventions.

“Our ageing population is going to be one of the most significant transformations this century,” Professor Down said.

“So, we need to seriously consider how we address ageism to ensure we are best able to support communities to age well.”

Related reading: NARI, Herald Sun

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