Though isolation has taken on a somewhat different meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s by no means a new phenomenon. Feelings of loneliness and isolation can occur at any age and can impact virtually anyone. For some, a chat with a close friend or relative can help alleviate the discomfort of feeling alone. But for many, for one reason or another, calling a loved one simply isn’t an option. A Dutch supermarket chain is taking a groundbreaking step in the fight against loneliness, and all it takes is a trip to the grocery store.
According to a report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), more than one-third of adults over 45 report feelings of loneliness. Feeling alone isn’t just uncomfortable – studies show that loneliness can put people at risk for serious medical conditions such as dementia. Widespread loneliness is a genuine threat to public health, and the Dutch supermarket chain Jumbo is fighting it in a simple and touching way.
Jumbo first introduced the kletskassa, or chat registers, in 2019. Specific registers in the store are marked for customers who want to chat with their cashiers as they check out. After their initial success, Jumbo announced their plan to expand the chat register program.
As a family business, Jumbo feels that it’s their duty to help their community.
“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 Kletskassa’s,” Colette Cloosterman-van Eerd, CCO of Jumbo explained on the chain’s website. “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.”
The supermarket chain will open 200 additional chat registers across the Netherlands and Belgium, targeting areas where loneliness is a more prevalent issue. Additionally, some stores will open “cozy chat corners” where customers enjoy a cup of coffee along with some human connection.
It’s no secret that the world is becoming increasingly digital. Social media is a major form of connection, but it’s not a replacement for face-to-face interaction. Loneliness is an increasingly serious problem around the world, but every single person has the power to combat it – sometimes, all it takes is a chat.