There are several ways you can help the elderly with their shopping needs on a regular basis and especially during a pandemic crisis, like COVID-19. You can work through a local group or organize your own group of volunteers to assist the elderly with shopping.
Volunteer With Local Organizations to Help Elderly Shop
Contact local organizations and agencies that work with the elderly to see if there is an existing system for helping seniors with grocery shopping. Chances are, you will get a good lead or two on this type of service. If there is an existing volunteer program, you may be able to become a volunteer. If there isn't any group doing this in your area, discuss with organizations and agencies how you can be of service to those they currently serve. By offering a delivery service to their clients, you may present the group with a much-needed way to expand their services.
Check With Local Food Banks
Food banks have their fingers on the community pulse. Food banks usually need more volunteers, especially if you're willing to deliver food to those who can't come to the location to pick up food. Discuss how you can provide a valuable service to the community they serve.
Contact Churches, Synagogues and Religious Organizations
Another opportunity to help the elderly with grocery and other shopping is through various religious organizations, such as churches and synagogues. You can contact the church office or speak directly to the minister or cleric to see if such a free delivery service would be helpful to parishioners. If your offer is accepted, you can work directly with the church official to set-up the free shopping delivery service, depending on how involved the organization wishes to be. You may simply be allowed to post a flyer on the church bulletin board and/or be mentioned in the church newsletter, website and Sunday bulletin.
Check With Retirement Communities
Another possible venue for your services is a retirement community. You will need to speak with the office to discuss your free delivery service. It's possible you'll be allowed to leave flyers and cards in the office for residents or you can join a program they all ready have in place. Ask if your service can be included on any community bulletin board, newsletter and website.
Join a Social Media Community Group
You can join a community social media group that works with seniors or a volunteer group to find inroads to providing your free delivery service. Whether you live in a large city or rural area, you may need to define how big an area you can service. These groups usually have guidelines to follow and will be able to contact you with details.
Get the Word Out About Individual Shopping Services
You need to get the word out about your free shopping service for the elderly if you don't join a larger organization. There are a couple ways you can let seniors know you are there and willing to assist them in their shopping needs. Make sure you are clear that seniors will still need to pay for their goods, but the service itself is free.
You can create flyers and distribute to various locations, such as a senior citizen community center, agencies, doctor offices, grocery store bulletin boards, churches, synagogues and other religious centers. Pass out flyers at community events, such as town festivals, art festivals, and areas for seniors, such as senior communities.
Create a Hashtag for Your Social Media Accounts
If you can't find a local community social media group to join, you can still get the word out. Create a hashtag that identifies what you're doing that is specific to your community/township and use it to make posts on various local Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages. Add a few sentences of description so people know you're willing to help out for free, the area you service, and what you're willing to shop for -- groceries, personal hygiene products, medications, or even clothing.
What Additional Services Can You Offer?
In addition to basic stops at grocery stores, big box retailers, and pharmacies, you may want to offer a few other specialized services for seniors who need goods.
Partner With Farmers and Growers
If you live an agricultural area, you may find farmers and various growers willing to sell fresh foodstuff and products directly to your senior clients. This can give seniors an extra incentive if they know they can purchase locally grown vegetables, eggs, cheeses, milk, poultry, and meats. This allows you to serve not just the seniors, but also your local farmers and growers. You can make arrangements with the farmers and growers to pick up the seniors' order(s) on a specific day when you have deliveries scheduled.
Set Up Orders at Local Farmers' Markets
If you aren't familiar with local farmers and growers, you can check out your local farmers market. Many seniors who need home deliveries can't take advantage of their local farmers market, but you can provide this as part of your grocery delivery service. You can visit the local farmers market to discuss with participating farmers and growers what is available, pricing, how often the produce is available, and which days you could pick up your orders. Once you've ironed out the details, you can print the listings with pricing to add to your flyers. Make it clear that the pricing is for the goods only, since the service itself is free.
Utilize Online Shopping for Grocery Pickup
Many grocery stores offer an online order and pickup process for groceries. Stores like Walmart and Sam's club offer online order/pickup services. When placing online orders, seniors can designate the person who will be picking up their order, so the process is easy. All you have to do is get the information from the senior and deliver the groceries.
Offer Fast Food Pickup Part of Free Grocery Delivery
You can offer a fast food pickup as part of your grocery delivery service since seniors enjoy the convenience of fast food, too. You can make this your last stop during your grocery delivery for individuals. This may not be feasible if you do a large number of orders at one time, but certainly is a nice perk for individual orders.
Ways Seniors Can Find Free Help With Shopping
If you're a senior, you can seek out those offering free shopping delivery services. You may wish to check out services offered by agencies that cater to senior citizens.
Contact Your Local Area Agencies on Aging
The Area Agencies on Aging (AAA) is a generic name that may or may not be used in your state or city. The agency can either be a public or private non-profit that is governed by your state. You can check with your state government to find out if there are any free shopping delivery services available for your area.
Check Your National Council on Aging
National Council on Aging suggests contacting your state Department of Labor for possible assistance for elderly shopping. Your state or city may offer specific programs.
Seek Specialized Groups During Times of Crisis
The 2020 coronavirus pandemic COVID-19 highlighted the urgent need to help the elderly with for groceries and other essentials. Some volunteers started GoFundMe pages, while others organized and reached out to those in their community over the age of 60. One such volunteer group, Shopping Angels, went national.
Utilize Early Hour Shopping for Seniors
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, grocery stores and big box stores offered seniors an exclusive shopping time by opening an hour early or blocking off the first hour of operation to only senior customers. This was done in an effort to minimize exposure to the most vulnerable sector of society - the elderly. Walmart adapted their pharmacy services for Tuesdays, so seniors could call the pharmacy upon arrival and their prescriptions could be hand-delivered to their car along with a credit card reader. In addition, customers could have their prescriptions mailed to them.
Contact Local Organizations
If you're part of a church, community group, or senior recreational facility, contact programming directors. They can often get you in touch with someone in the community who can help, whether it's part of a larger organization or an individual who has offered their services.
How You Can Help the Elderly With Their Shopping Needs
Gather with other volunteers at your civic organization, church or other religious organization to offer volunteer weekly shopping services to the elderly in your community, or get names of people who need help from those organizations and contact them on your own. You can always extend your shopping delivery services to include other valuable services to senior citizens.