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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.

Photo of Anne null
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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

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Congrats Team on the idea moving into Refinement!

Photo of Anne-Laure Fayard

Congrats all for being in refinement. It's nice to see an idea from the workshop in refinement. With Bettina Fliegel we would like to organize a refinement workshop with NYC OpenIDEO chapter. I let Bettina takes the lead on this. I recommend thinking of what aspect of your idea you want feedback upon and see how much you can prototype further before the workshop so that you can get the most valuable feedback.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi all.
The OpenIDEO NYC Chapter is hosting a refinement workshop in downtown Brooklyn, on December 12, evening, to support ideas in refinement from the local area. I will reach out with further info via email.

Anne - Are you thinking of prototyping the idea in your community?

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi all!  Anne, Jill Petersen  Carolyn Halpin-Healy  Margaret Spring Here are the details on the NY Chapter event next week -

Not everyone is located in the NY area but I thought it could be cool to share Groceries For Care at the Pop Up to get some feedback. Margaret and I will be at the event. Carolyn you are welcome to join! (Margaret is presenting Hello Caregiver with her team.) We are hoping some caregivers will attend. There are some professionals working in the field who have rsvp'd, and others from the general OI community.
Would anyone be interested in creating a UX Map from the scenario to share? (UX Map Template -

Anne - Great poster mock up!

Photo of Tania van Bergen

I think this is a great idea! It allows for both practicality (a caregiver needs to shop) community building (caregivers can find and build a community of support by finding others in the same situation) and activities for the individual with dementia (socializing, drinking coffee etc.) My dad has Louis Body Disease and my Mom is always trying to figure out ways to keep him occupied. (This would help.) Also, the toll this situation takes on the primary caregiver (in this case my Mom) is brutal - it is obviously isolating, and depressing. I like that your idea builds community in person and also gets everyone out of the house. It would also be great if there was a facilitator who people could turn to for advice. It would be great if they could offer advice on everything from diagnosis, to retrofitting bathrooms stairs and kitchen safety to medical insurance, homecare etc... Thank you!

Photo of Kaye Han

Hey Anne,

Great job on posting this idea. What I like most is that there is a cadence attached to this 'necessary chore'. Groceries every Tuesday at 10am - 12pm makes the moments to meet with other caregivers and care-receivers regular, which really allows for an organic and seamless gathering of those in the space. :)

Photo of Mariah Burton Nelson

Yes. I think the "I can count on seeing like-minded people - while also getting a task done and including my parent in my day" parts of this have great promise.

Photo of Lindsay Vetell

I love the theme you described! My stepfather takes care of my mother who has early onset dementia and with working and taking care of her, it can be so difficult for him to find time to seemingly simple things... like grocery shopping!

To build off your idea, it could be empowering to have the dementia patients cook simple, seasonal meals as an activity. That they could take home and share with their caregivers. This could give them a renewed sense of contribution.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Lindsay. Nice idea!
I wonder if this also creates an opportunity for care partners to share and exchange simple to make recipes?

Photo of Mariah Burton Nelson

Interesting idea. People with dementia and old people in general can feel quite bad about "not contributing." Seems any gift they could make, then give back to the caregivers, would suit multiple needs. Even if they're not making a meal, but simply shelling peas or shucking corn in a social environment, that could be valuable.

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Anne.
Thank you for posting the idea! I really like the example activity you shared. I wonder if this Groceries For Care Idea might also work at Farmer's Markets in urban environments, where not all supermarkets have cafes.

How do memory cafes work in general? Do care partners attend together, or is it an opportunity for a caregiver to have an hour or two break, while a loved one is engaged at the cafe?

To the Team - It was lovely to meet and go through the design process with all of you at the workshop yesterday!

Photo of Margaret Spring

Anne - Thank you for posting. I love this idea for so many reasons & you did a fantastic job elaborating out the examples. Thank you!

Bettina Fliegel - Farmer's markets would be great... plus there's often dogs & children there which bring joy to many individuals with dementia. :) I was also thinking in urban areas, actually coffee shops next door to a grocery store might be a good option. Really building off the examples that are successful for parenting/mommies groups. Especially in neighborhoods with a significant residential community - I can see this being a nice marketing hook for the local businesses as well as the community building for the care partners.

NY Memory Center has some great pics from their various Memory Cafes. Might be a good range of examples. Sometimes it's a party at their center and other times it's out and about. They put a lot of effort into making it very social and do such a really nice job of engage both caregivers and care recipients.

Thanks to both of you & the whole team for cooking up a great idea together!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Margaret and Team 
Thinking about this Challenge which is focused on Ideas to support caregivers when a family member is in the early to mid stages of dementia….
How might we leverage this idea to help care givers that are concerned about their loved one prior to being diagnosed, at diagnosis and just after? (I am thinking about the persona Karen in this Caregiver Journey Map, an attachment on the Ideas page of the challenge.)
Map -

Initially "Karen" is worried about changes in her mother. As issues progress she spends more time with mom, less with her family, and starts to cut back at work.
I wonder if expanding Groceries For Care to include a monthly weekend Meet Up, at the Supermarket Cafe, might be an opportunity for folk, those that are worried and have started doing tasks with or for family members, to gather information from caregivers further along in the process? Or an opportunity to get information from a knowledgable facilitator? How might this idea play out to best help caregivers earlier in the journey?

Would family members in early stages of dementia still be able to manage to do the shopping on their own? Is shopping something they still like and want to do at this point? Would a caregiver, early in the journey, be able to attend a Meet Up at the cafe while their loved one shops, flipping the idea or adding another component to Groceries For Care?
What do you think?…….Margaret Spring Mariah Burton Nelson 

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Anne and team,

Interesting idea!

I can see this working very well in my hometown where there is an out of town grocery store with attached Starbucks cafe, less so where I am at the moment (Central New York) where the grocery stores are very small and compact with no attached cafes.

It would be interesting to know more about the Memory Cafes. How do you set one up? How have they scaled? Is there an info pack to give people information on how to start a cafe?

I look forward to finding out more about your first on-the-ground test of this concept.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Photo of Anne null