Dutch Supermarket Begins Two Initiatives to Help Fight Loneliness

A new chat checkout line and a coffee corner are helping ease loneliness.

Aug 5, 2019

(DutchMen / Shutterstock.com)

People are wired to seek social contact, we talk around the water cooler at work, join clubs or religious institutions, and spend time with our friends and family. If we feel lonely it is a temporary situation caused by the emotional ups and downs in life like a breakup, moving to a new city, or retiring.  

But for people over 65, loneliness is a pervasive problem that can affect people's mental health, physical health and sense of well-being. An AARP survey found that one-in-three US seniors experience loneliness. This is a global issue.

The Jumbo supermarket in Vlijmen in the Netherlands is working to make their community a lot less lonely. They recently launched two initiatives in the supermarket for seniors to stay and chat a while.

The first is a new Chat Checkout register line where slower is better. "It is a new kind of cash register for people who are not in such a hurry and who may need a chat," Jumbo CEO Colette Cloosterman-van Eerd told Omroep Brabant. "We really expect a lot from it."

The second initiative is the All Together Coffee Corner is a place where seniors can meet people from the community and volunteers from Alles Voor Mekaar (Everything For Each Other), a year-old organization of volunteers that was established to help seniors in the neighborhood.

The organization is a tremendous success and volunteers help seniors' shop for groceries, garden, or just to chat.  Liesbeth Geveling is already a supporter, what they call the volunteers in Vlijmen and every week she visits 94-year old Christien Smits.

The local Jumbo supermarket joined the initiative and that's where the idea for the coffee corner came from. The corner's grand opening in early July 2019 saw a ribbon cutting by  Minister Hugo de Jonge, Dick de Fijter the manager of Jumbo Vlijmen, and Cloosterman-van Eerd.

People attending the grand opening were very enthusiastic about it. “I am going to have a drink or do some shopping, for example, we have become real buddies. Very cozy," Geveling said.

Alexander van Weet, one of the initiators of Alles Voor Mekaar said that he thinks the social corner will really help. “We will also regularly sit down in the coffee corner and try to get in touch with people who need help. Just to look back at each other, that is the intention," he said.

Loneliness is also a big problem in the UK and there, the government has gotten involved in several trial projects including have postmen check on seniors on their route and chat benches in some communities.

Projects like these are vital to the older members of our communities who frequently live alone and suffer from isolation and loneliness. Hopefully more supermarkets in other communities will start their own coffee corners.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.