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Prell: Out and about – What you need to know to stay safe

Jennifer Prell
Jennifer Prell

The COVID-19 crisis prompts everyone to use caution and protect themselves while shopping, particularly older adults.

Over the past 4 to 5 weeks, many area grocery stores and membership shopping warehouses have established senior hours, whereby people older than 60 have an hour or two of priority access a few days per week. These new hours help older adults, one of the most vulnerable populations, to shop in a store at their own pace with reduced store traffic.

The stores are sanitizing the carts and the shelves are restocked overnight, so items are more easily found. Certainly these safety precautions are wonderful, but do not guarantee the store is completely safe, people still need to protect themselves.

For the time being, wearing a mask is required to help prevent the passing of the COVID-19 virus. Wearing your mask properly is key. Making sure you nose and mouth is completely covered minimizes spread. If you wear glasses place them on top of the mask so your glasses don’t fog.

Make sure the mask is not so tight that it restricts your air flow. Washing with dishwashing soap in a plastic bag and then air-drying maybe the best method to clean your fabric mask. Don’t use fabric softener, as it will fill the gaps that allow air to enter through the fabric.

Although most stores are doing this, it’s a good idea to disinfect the shopping cart before touching the handle. If you are putting your purse in the basket you will need to wipe down that area as well.

Put on your gloves to shop or make sure you sanitize your hands before you leave the store. Do not touch your face. Do not touch your phone. If you do touch your phone while shopping, make sure to wipe it down with a disinfecting wipe when you leave.

Safety guidelines state that maintaining a distance of 6-feet or more from all other people prevents inhalation of airborne droplets. Let’s face it, humans are social creatures and socialization is a very important aspect of aging, and shopping is usually a good way to stay connected.

For individuals with compromised immune systems it is wise to consider having your groceries delivered. When the food arrives at your home, place all shopping bags on one area of the counter. Produce should be thoroughly washed, and all items should be wiped down with sanitizing wipes. Remove the bags to the garbage or recycling bin. Disinfect your counter where you placed your grocery bags and then wash your hands thoroughly.

Whatever method of shopping you choose, please make sure to take care of yourself. Keeping your hands away from your face at all times will help as well as covering all open wounds.

We want you to be safe and if you have questions or need support, the Elderwerks team is there for you at 855-462-0100.

• Jennifer Prell is President of Elderwerks Educational Services, a nonprofit organization offering complimentary information, referrals and guidance to older adults, seniors and their families for senior living, care, support and benefits. Elderwerks and Jennifer Prell do not receive any compensation for mentions of any product or website.

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