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(revision 12.3.17) Groceries for Care

Meaningful programming for people with dementia in grocery store cafes while their care partners shop.

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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

Supports family caregivers by giving them 1) time to grocery shop; 2) peace of mind that their care partner is being meaningfully engaged; 3) time to socialize and form networks with other care partners with coffee afterwards.


Sarah has been caring for her husband Bob at home since his diagnosis of dementia 2 years ago. One day she spotted a poster in her grocery store for Groceries for Care, held every Tuesday, 10 - 11:45. 

This also happens to be senior discount day at the store. Sarah decides to try it. On Tuesday she and Bob go to the cafe at their local grocery. There are 4 other couples there, one facilitator who appears to be in charge, and several volunteers. The volunteers welcome Bob and Sarah and ask who is going to have coffee and whose going shopping?  Sarah says she would love a chance to shop... Bob follows one of the volunteers over to get a cup of coffee.  Sarah is surprised how easy the transition was...and goes off to shop for about 45 minutes.  

When Sarah returns, she sees the group gathered at tables in the cafe, working on a project. There are fall root vegetables on the table. They are holding them, running hands over them, and describing how they feel.  One volunteer asks them for words.  "Bumpy." "Orange". "Curving." They offer. "I love fall and the smell of leaves." 

The volunteer writes their words down on a small notecard, and pops it into a frame donated by the store.  She writes the first names of the participants on the card.  

"Come next week and this will be up in the root vegetable display area!" she says.  The group is impressed by their efforts and the store's engagement with the group. 

Sarah is too.  

In the car on the way home, Bob asks if he can go shopping with her again.  

"Of course," she says.  And she reminds herself to call to let them know she'll be coming again next week.  


Some days, neighboring school children join in the G4C program as a service-learning project. With this program, the larger community begins to see people with dementia as a valuable part of their community, not to be feared, but to be engaged and treasured.  

Large-scale grocery store chains are an easy first step to adopt this program. But similar models could take place wherever there is an area for people to gather in a store - box stores like Target and Costco, or pharmacies like CVS. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

There are several "memory cafes" in my town and neighboring communities. It would be relatively simple to pilot this by shifting the location of a memory cafe from its usual site to a grocery store for one week to identify any challenges that might come up. We envision building a relationship with a grocery store chain once the prototype is set, helping to spread both caregiver support and awareness, the "memory cafe" movement, and the reduction of stigma of dementia.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

Marketing, large-scale partnerships with grocery stores, design of posters and logo.

How long has your idea existed?

  • 0-3 months

This idea emerged from

  • A group brainstorm
  • An OpenIDEO Outpost or Chapter

Tell us about your work experience:

Our group, which met at the IDEO Open Challenge in NYC, has a range of experiences, including design, entrepreneurship, healthcare, and caregiving!

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

Caregivers need respite to do basic chores like grocery shopping, and to feel connected to their community. This concept gives them both meaningful community connection and a chance to shop!

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Accessibility?

Most Area Agencies on Aging have a dementia specialist who could help organize volunteers to run the sessions, making them free. Donations could help offset costs of any supplies needed for activities.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

With one grocery store chain as a beginning partner, this idea could scale quiet easily.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

Surveys to caregivers and care partners with dementia to determine their comfort with the program and their ideas for improvement.

What are your immediate next steps after the Challenge?

Connecting with a memory cafe network (Milwaukee & the Fox Valley Memory Project or the state of MA's network of 67 cafes) to find an appropriate demonstration site. Identifying a lead organization to manage the project (since this idea emerged from a brainstorm group at an IDEO session).


Join the conversation:

Photo of Brittany Margot

Hi Anne + Bettina Fliegel  - welcome to Refinement! It's exciting to see your idea grow and evolve. The mock-up flyer is a great addition!

We also encourage you to develop a user journey map depicting Sarah's Story. Don't forget to add visuals! Images or hand drawings are attention-grabbing and often helpful in understanding the user experience. Start thinking about a small experiment you could test in the next few weeks. Perhaps inviting caregivers and care-recipients to a mock-up grocery store cafe? Gathering feedback? Please reach out with questions! or feel free to email me at

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