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Shopping for the Elderly in Coronavirus Self-Isolation

The Age Space Guide to Shopping for Elderly Parents during the Coronavirus Pandemic

For elderly parents and relatives, access to food and supplies during the Coronavirus pandemic has hopefully become less of a concern for them and for families supporting them, at close or long distance. The local support networks and community volunteer scheme have got going, and the supermarkets are constantly adapting how they work both online and in-store. This is a guide to practical steps you can take to ensure that your relatives are supported locally with the shopping and supplies they need during the Coronavirus pandemic.

1. Where to source groceries & supplies

Online Shopping – Hard to Book Slots!

At the time of writing, many online grocers are now trying to free up slots for the elderly/vulnerable. This is proving difficult as they are mostly using data they have access to regarding the most vulnerable over 70s to decide who can register.

If you are trying to register for online shopping for a parent you will need to make sure they are registered under the new vulnerable adults scheme (see section below with contact details) before you can get them online deliveries.

This is proving difficult as unless they fulfil the Govt’s criteria – even if they have myriad other illnesses that make them frail and vulnerable at the moment they will not be included.

If you are able to shop online then all grocery companies are now offering contact-free deliveries with shopping being dropped at the door.

Morrisons have now launched a food-box scheme which can be a regular delivery of staple foods. You can find out more on the Morrisons website.

There is also now a volunteer card scheme which you can download for someone to do shopping on behalf of a parent/relative. This is either a gift card where available (John Lewis for example- includes Waitrose), or a specific card for volunteers (eg Sainsbury).

Local shopping is increasingly the solution. As local shops work out how to be open – whether that is virtually through online/phone ordering and delivery, or through social distancing measures, this is both a lifeline for our high streets, as well as a great way to shop.

The food, grocery & other shops that are still open

Almost all shops have now re-opened. It remains important to maintain social distancing when shopping, particularly in smaller or less-ventilated shops such as corner shops and off licences.

Just some practical advice that we have heard regarding shopping and deliveries: wash your hands thoroughly before and after going to the supermarket; disinfect all surfaces that come in to contact with grocery bags; wipe down supermarket trolley handles.

Even more useful is the local army of neighbours, volunteers and services now working together on local high streets and villages providing delivery services to those that need it. You can find more on this further down the article.

Chemists, banks & other necessities

Building societies, banks, chemists, hardware stores and laundrettes are all still open. Many have shortened their opening hours, and some opening only on certain days of the week. You may find this information through local groups.

Help from down on the farm

If the local supermarket does continue to be busy, why not try a farm shop. These two directories might help you find local options:

Shopping at local independent stores also of course has the benefit of helping to keep these vital resources afloat during this time and to be there once again when this is all over.

Speciality/alternative grocery outlets

There are also many – often at premium price – specialty meal and grocery delivery options. From national meal delivery companies such as Wiltshire Farm Foods and Cook, to specialist veg box delivery from Abel & Cole, meat box delivery company Field & Flower, or fish delivery through Fish for Thought.

2. Community help with shopping during the Coronavirus pandemic

If your parents and elderly relatives are not connected locally through groups such as church, the Rotary or even the golf club, and are reluctant onliners, you can do much to connect on their behalf and for them.

Finding community groups online

Search for Facebook groups in their area: ‘[Local area] community group’, for example, or ‘Helping Hands [Local Area]’; these are popping up everywhere and you can join yourself and get involved on your parents’ behalf. Real groups are of course also busy – as before – the local church or organisations such as the Rotary.

Local neighbours pitching in

Hopefully your parents have received the #viralkindness postcard which has become a phenomenon: those needing help fill in what help they’d like, and those offering to help to similar. This is often by street or locality – and is being supplemented by whatsapp groups, and micro local/street Facebook groups.

On all of these platforms/sources, we have seen many offers of help – from free deliveries of medication, free taxi rides for the over-70s, to shopping collection and delivery.

NextDoor.co.uk is a national platform connecting local communities. You will need to register your elderly parents’ address and email. If they are not very tech savvy (yet!), you could try and forward their email to yours; or set up a new account attached to their address. In this way you can also keep track of local support.

3. When to shop – the supermarket “silver hours”

Each supermarket has its own systems in place to ensure that food is available and that shopping is as safe as it can be for the elderly and their carers. Check with your local supermarket for specific information.

Silver hour is still available in some supermarkets, with some local timing differences. Some supermarkets are prioritising elderly people for online deliveries – but registering and getting in the virtual queue even for this is challenge.

  • Morrisons – no silver hour at present
  • Tesco – Check silver hour times at your nearest store using the Tesco Store Finder
  • Asda – first hour locally, Monday, Wednesday and Friday
  • Marks & Spencer – 9-10am, Monday and Thursday
  • Iceland – elderly customers to go online for priority
  • Aldi – Stores open 30 minutes prior to their usual opening times for elderly and vulnerable customers. This is browsing-time only though, and they can pay at regular opening time.
  • Lidl – no silver hour at present
  • Co-op – no silver hour at present
  • Sainsbury’s – No silver hour at present

But if you go to the supermarket, the general guidance is as follows:

  • Shops may operate a “one in, one out” policy so long is queuing a possibility
  • Queues are to observe the 2m distance and will be managed by store staff
  • Cards rather than cash for payments (so you can use contactless payments)
  • Consider donating to local foodbanks whilst at the supermarket


4. Other sources of help available

Register the most vulnerable with gov.uk

If your elderly parents have not (yet) received notification that they are on the most vulnerable list, but you believe they should be, you can register them through the Gov.uk website. You will need their NHS number to do so. Currently in order to be eligible they need to have any of the Gov.Uk identified diseases/illnesses. If they become registered they will be a priority for support from shopping delivery, medication and other services.

Goodsam app – an army of volunteers

Food parcels have begun to be delivered by the new army of volunteers who have signed up to help with shopping, delivering medicines and other essentials. Organised through Local Authorities and community hubs, the matching process of volunteers with the 1.5 million identified most vulnerable people will take some time. But there is a real community spirit around to help protect our most vulnerable older people that you can tap into right now.

Join our Coronavirus Facebook Group to let us know what’s happening locally and to share your tips on shopping for your parents or elderly relatives during the Coronavirus pandemic.

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