Grocery Shopping: An Important Activity For The Elderly

by Eric Corum

Helper Bee Grocery Shopping

Do you remember going grocery shopping with your mother when you were small? I certainly do. I was so proud that she entrusted me with going to get two gallons of milk while she was picking produce. In reality, she probably just wanted a few moments so she could focus on getting the best vegetables for the next few dinners. Of course, with my little brother in tow right behind me and my baby sister sitting in the grocery cart, it wasn’t like she could focus entirely on any one thing long. The grocery store was a family event that happened every week. There was always a lot of interaction and discussion about what to eat for the upcoming week and what products to buy. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that the cereal aisle is where many youngsters start to hone in on their negotiation skills (for me, it was trying to convince my mom that we should get Franken Berry). Now that I am a parent, I can certainly attest to the management skills that are practiced when telling my kids that they cannot get three boxes of Fruit Loops. Aside from the intra-family discussion, it seemed like we always ran into somebody we knew at the grocery store. Most of the time it was a “grown-up” that my mom knew that she would spend a few moments talking with. All in all, the grocery store is much more of a social activity than we give it credit for.

When you have a new family, going to the grocery store with the kids can also be an exhausting task. You not only have the logistics of what happens in the grocery store, but you also have to get everyone to the store and then back home again just to start the next task of unloading the groceries. Once you reach the age where you do not have to manage your kids at the store, grocery shopping becomes a lot easier. It gets even better when you are retired and are just shopping for you and your spouse. You have much more time and can really appreciate picking out the best produce. As you age, however, the physical aspect of shopping starts to become burdensome. It will become as exhausting as it was when you had a new family even though by this time you are probably pushing around one of the small grocery baskets and only have it partially filled. Let’s dissect the physical aspects of grocery shopping when you are elderly.

  1. Getting ready to leave the house: for ladies especially, this can be quite a task in and of itself
  2. Driving to the store: includes getting in and out of the car and walking across the parking lot
  3. Shopping: walking, pushing the cart, reaching, lifting
  4. Driving home: walking across the parking lot again and getting in the car (hopefully with some help from the baggers putting the groceries in the car)
  5. Unloading: taking the groceries from the car to the kitchen counter, then from the counter into the pantry/refrigerator

Even though grocery shopping can be physically demanding for the elderly, being prematurely robbed of going to the grocery store is probably one of the worst things that can happen. The grocery store is such an important aspect of our social fabric. It is communal, it is physical, and it is a necessary task. With just a little bit of help from someone designated as a grocery shopping helper, a senior can reap all the benefits of grocery shopping for much longer than they would without help. At some point it may be necessary to have someone go grocery shopping for the senior, but initially, it is better to have someone to go with the senior. A huge side benefit of having help and making an event out of going to the grocery store is that the senior will likely start to plan out more nutritious meals rather than picking out pre-packaged foods out of convenience.  If there is someone there to help pick out the best potato, cucumber, or avocado, this could start to take precedent over picking out the best frozen dinner.

When you look at the social, physical, and nutritious benefits of having a grocery shopping helper, it is a no-brainer. It is one of the best and most proactive things one can do to ensure successful aging in place.

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