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These special grocery carts designed to boost independence for the disabled, elderly

Caroline's Carts can carry people weighing from 35 to 250 pounds so they can enjoy the shopping experience.
Image Credit: Submitted/Wenzl

Everyone needs groceries and whether they are seniors or people with disabilities – going to the grocery store can be a challenge.

That’s why Jo-Ann Swanson is encouraging all grocery stores in the Thompson-Okanagan to invest in Caroline’s Carts.

“We take for granted the little things we do every day without thinking about them,” she told “If you had to stop doing those things, you would realize that it does take away from your happiness.”

Swanson is not associated with the manufacturer but saw Caroline’s Cart in use in other locations so is encouraging more local stores to buy them.

The cart was designed by Ann Long who had a special needs daughter who, as she grew older, outgrew traditional shopping carts. Long designed her own, got a patent and worked with Wenzl North America in North Carolina to manufacture the cart.

It's similar to a traditional shopping cart that is built on a six-wheeled sturdy frame and fitted with a seat that can accommodate anyone from 35 to 250 pounds.

Image Credit: Submitted/Wenzl

Swanson, who worked in healthcare and was a geriatric recreational therapist, advocates for the elderly and disabled.

As seniors age, it can become a real hardship to walk up and down store aisles pushing a shopping cart or carrying a basket then standing in line at the checkout, she said.

“To have anything like that taken away from you and having to rely on someone else to make those decisions to pick up those things for you definitely does takes away part of your independence,” Swanson said. “If we can supply a little more of that independence back to seniors in the community we would be in a much happier place.”

The carts do require someone to accompany the senior to push them, but it’s easier to get family or volunteers to do that than do the shopping themselves, she said.

“At least this way they would be able to sit,” Swanson said. “What a good way – instead of having your daughter or your son or your in-laws pick up your groceries – wouldn’t it be nice for you to be able to go to the grocery store and feel you are a part of the activity and you’re part of making decisions and you’re part of seeing what the prices are. Just doing the basic things we all take for granted.”

The carts are sold all over North America and there are about 400 in Canada. Most of those are in Eastern Canada and only a handful in B.C. Sobeys and Loblaws are two grocery store chains that have picked up on the value of the carts.

One cart is in the Vernon Safeway store.

Wenzl has a listing of all the locations in Canada, here.

Representatives from the company would not say what they cost because that varies depending on the size of the orders but did agree they cost three to four times the price of an ordinary shopping cart.

The main reason for that is their longevity, Will Kiser, product manager for retail solutions for Wenzl, said from North Carolina.

They’re intended to be stored indoors at a specific location so users know where to find them, he said.

He has a store in his neighbourhood where there's a Caroline's Cart.

"I spoke with one of the patrons and they said that is their daily routine to come with their special needs child, who was around 10 to 14 years old," Kiser said. "That’s their standard routine to go to the store every day and shop."

The users vary with about 50% being people with disabilities and 50% seniors, he estimated.

“When the cart was introduced, the adoption was driven primarily amongst the special needs community,” Jeff Armstrong, vice-president of marketing and product management for Wenzl, said.

“It appears what’s happened is, once the carts got out there in the field, others saw them and started using them, including those who had elderly parents at home or, maybe your child broke their leg and it’s difficult for them to walk, or someone just had surgery There are a lot of foreseeable uses outside of just the special needs community."

More information is available on the Wenzl website, here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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