Q: Due to my age and chronic health conditions, I have been extremely careful over the last nine months to avoid contracting COVID-19. I only go out when it is necessary, but with the holidays approaching, I don’t know how I’m going to get my gift shopping done. My children and grandchildren have agreed it would not be a good idea to travel to see me, and I will have to mail all my purchases. How can I shop and stay safe?
A: The National Retail Federation is running an ad campaign encouraging consumers to “Shop safe, shop early,” which is an important message for all of us. Retailers say about 60% of shoppers will be making most of their selections online. While online shopping helps you avoid crowds, there is concern shipping and mailing companies may be inundated with orders, and packages may not arrive on time. In some instances, supply chain manufacturing is not back to production levels that existed before COVID.
Big box stores, small boutiques, grocery, and department stores in many areas of the country are offering curbside pickup options. It’s an easy process: choose your items online, pay with a credit card, and get notified when to pick up your order. You don’t even have to get out of your car.
For those who still prefer to do their shopping in person, visit the stores when they first open or later in the evening. Ask if the business has special hours for older adults or those at higher risk. Make a detailed list to get in and out of a store as quickly as possible. If possible, use contactless credit cards to prevent contamination. If you are not sure if your credit card has this function, look for the wave symbol or ask your card company. This contamination is not a significant risk, but it makes sense to do this whenever possible.
Small local businesses have been hit hard during the pandemic. Consider shopping at these stores by purchasing merchandise or gift certificates. In some instances, stores will be limiting how many people can enter at one time. Avoid long lines whenever possible, and always wear a face covering. Carry hand sanitizer with you and use this when leaving a store. Finally, this may be the year to consider donating to a charity in a family member’s name instead of a gift.
Are you struggling to care for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our experienced staff is available to help. Visit us online at www.ESMV.org for more information. You can also call us at 1-800-892-0890 or email email@example.com. Joan Hatem-Roy is the Chief Executive Officer of Elder Services of Merrimack Valley and North Shore.