Grocery employees to watch for elderly customers’ health issues

Cashiers working at two Albert Heijn stores in The Hague are going to keep an eye on the welfare of their elderly clients. If a cashier notices that an older client is getting forgetful or neglecting himself, the cashier will ask the client if he needs to talk with an in-store volunteer from a care organization. The volunteer will then refer him to a doctor or welfare organization if necessary.

"The initiative came after employees did not see an older gentlemen come into the store anymore", Els van Dijk of Albert Heijn explained to broadcaster NOS. "When they later decided to call on a care facility, it turned out that the man passed away."

For this project, called SuperZorg, Albert Heijn is working with care organization Royaal Zorg. The two stores involved in the project are in the areas Loosduinen and Escamp, where relatively many elderly people live. "Cashiers in these two stores have good contact with the elderly because they see them come in every day", Van Dijk said to the broadcaster. "They have good signaling function. Royaal Zorg will train the store employees in what to look for."

Albert Heijn calls this project an expansion on the old-fashioned neighborhood store where customers could share their story. Van Dijk adds that it also an example of entrepreneur's contemporary social involvement in a participation society.

SuperZorg is one of a number of care innovations the city of The Hague is taking on. Earlier this year State Secretary Martin van Rijn of Public Health launched a 16 million euro dementia awareness campaign. The aim of this campaign is to make the public realize that the elderly person getting on the bus without knowing his destination, or trying to walk out of a store without paying, is not necessarily a criminal, but may in fact be suffering from dementia. The Dutch government also released a video during dementia week to raise awareness.

An estimated 260 thousand people are currently suffering from dementia in the Netherlands. The Ministry of Public Health expects that this number will increase to at least 400 thousand in 2050, due to the aging population and increased life expectancy.