Focus on Seniors: Offering food for thought

senior grocery shopping LARGE

When grocery shopping becomes a chore for seniors

Click here to read the article, published by Brant News on March 6, 2015. 

The wave is coming.

“Here is an eye opener: we have 41,000 baby boomers living in Brantford and Brant,” said Lucy Marco, president of the Grand River Council on Aging (GRCOA). “And the number is growing very quickly. By the year 2030 – that’s only 15 years from now – the number of residents over 55 years old will swell to 60,000 people. This will be about 35 per cent of the projected population of Brantford and Brant.

“Of course we know that as we grow older that our health changes. And this can lead to various problems with everyday life.”

Marco poses the question: “Have you ever talked with a senior about their experience when they do something as basic as shopping for their groceries each week? Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well maybe it isn’t.”

Recently, Karen Williamson, special events co-ordinator for the Grand River Council on Aging, organized a group of local citizens to gather and talk about their experience shopping for groceries. They ranged in age from 60 to 78. Each of them is mobile and healthy.

Sherrill Heys is an active 71-year-old. A retired school teacher, Heys is involved with the local branch of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) and presently serves as vice chair.

“I have a terrible fear of falling,” Heys said. “I try to be careful when I am walking particularly if I’m shopping. This winter with all the snow and ice we have had it has been quite challenging.

“The entrances to stores can be very wet and become slippery, which can lead to falls. The large mats placed at the entrances help, but last week at the grocery store the mat was soaking wet and that in itself is a hazard.”

Les Payne is a 78-year-old widower who enjoys going to the gym three times a week.

Although he doesn’t have any health issues, he still remembers going for groceries with his wife.

“Elaine was five-feet tall so you can imagine her problem being able to reach for items on grocery store shelves. I was her personal grocery store assistant.

“But I don’t know how other people – including those with health issues and maybe in wheelchairs – get along at grocery stores.”

Payne tends to shop at one grocery store and follows the store’s weekly specials on his iPad.

“I belong to a loyalty program that rewards me with points that earn me free groceries,” he said.

Seventy-year-old Vera Skitch, a retired school teacher, also follows grocery specials online. She talks about the cost of being able to eat healthy and as an alternative goes to the market, where she believes fruits and vegetables are sometimes fresher.

“My main beef though is being able to read the food labels,” Skitch said. “It seems that they make it almost impossible to read some of the labels. I cannot imagine what I would do if I had a problem with my eyesight.”

Jasmine Payne, a 60-year-old baby boomer, wonders how seniors go grocery shopping if they can’t drive.

“I realize that we’re fortunate to have public transit – buses and taxis,” she said. “But how do seniors manage with bus schedules and carrying their groceries onto a bus – not to mention even waiting for the bus to come during the winter we have had this year?”

“Who knows? Perhaps we will be able to develop strategies that will assist with grocery shopping,” Marco says. “For instance, I know there are some grocery stores that have organized shopping programs for seniors that include opening a special checkout for a period of time.”

The Grand River Council on Aging developed a master aging plan for the residents of Brantford-Brant that is based on the World Health Organization’s age-friendly initiatives. These include outdoor spaces and recreation, transportation, housing, social participation, respect and social inclusion, civic participation and employment, communication and information and community support and health services. Contact the Grand River Council on Aging at 519-754-0077, ext. 438 or online at

Focus on Seniors is produced in partnership with the Grand River Council on Aging.