A Grocery Line Where Slower is Better: Supermarkets Open ‘Chat Checkouts’ to Combat Loneliness Among Elderly

1.3 million people in the Netherlands are older than 75 years—and one large supermarket chain is making sure they’re not getting too lonely in their elder years.

The Dutch government with its campaign, ‘One Against Loneliness’, has galvanized organizations, towns, companies, and individuals to find solutions. The grocer giant, Jumbo, is doing their part with its innovative chatty check outs.

The idea for the ‘Kletskassa’, which translates to ‘chat checkout’, originated more than two years ago—and in the summer of 2019 the first Kletskassa was opened in Vlijmen in Brabant.

This resulted in many positive reactions from customers—and now Jumbo is expanding the initiative further: By this time next year, there will be chat checkouts in 200 stores across the country where people can go for a conversation. When choosing the stores, areas where loneliness is a major factor are carefully considered.

Colette Cloosterman-van Eerd, CCO of Jumbo and the driving force behind the National Coalition against Loneliness, is closely involved in the initiative. She says, “Many people, especially the elderly, sometimes feel lonely. As a family business and supermarket chain, we are at the heart of society.”

“Our stores are an important meeting place for many people and we want to play a role in identifying and reducing loneliness. We do this in various ways, including our Kletskassas. We are proud that many of our cashiers like to take a seat behind a Kletskassa. They support the initiative and want to help people to make real contact with them out of genuine interest.”

“It is a small gesture, but very valuable, especially in a world that is digitizing and getting faster and faster.”

Local approach to loneliness
In addition to the Kletskassas, Jumbo has various other initiatives to establish personal contact between people.

Cloosterman-van Eerd explained that, “At Jumbo we want to be more than just a place where you do your shopping. For example, we help our stores by means of a manual to signal loneliness among customers and to set up local initiatives… Several stores also have a chat corner where customers can grab a nice cup of coffee and chat with neighbors.”

The Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport has supported the establishment of local coalitions against loneliness in each of the 355 municipalities across the country for organizing programs such as home visits, telephone hotlines, and creating maps of activities for nearby seniors.

The Dutch national movement towards supporting older people will hopefully catch on in many more countries around the world.