Personalized food and medicine shopping services for seniors
Angelica Caballero used to happily push her shopping trolley by the bridgeway that connected her condo to SM North EDSA for her daily needs and supplies. She found the perfect home in Grass Residences – with its walkable access to the mall, a hospital and easy commute to major thoroughfares – especially for an elderly like her who lives alone.
But with the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown, access to supplies proved to be difficult, with many stores closing or operating with limited hours. And, as a senior citizen, she was not allowed to go out, nor would she have wanted to venture out of her unit.
Caballero is one of more than 100,000 persons aged 65 years old and above, who are living alone, based on the 2015 Census of Population data.
Commission on Population and Development Undersecretary Juan Antonio Perez III has called on barangays and community leaders to locate these elderlies so that they can be provided with appropriate support. “More than ever, the challenge for inclusivity during these trying times calls for the establishment of efficient mechanisms to easily locate vulnerable populations such as the older persons who are living alone,” Perez said in a statement.
Elderlies are among the group of individuals rendered vulnerable to Covid-19 because of limited physical mobility, increased vulnerability to infections, lower injury thresholds and higher recovery times. Without a non-elderly adult to purchase their food and medicine for them, many of them are forced to go out of their homes for weekly grocery and medicine runs.
The Good Guys to the rescue
Fortunately for Caballero, The Good Guys care team, composed of employees from SM Development Corporation (SMDC), calls her every week to assist her with her grocery and medicine needs.
The Good Guys care team is a group of volunteer SMDC employees who regularly call selected residents to provide shopping services for elderlies who live independently. The team takes their orders – along with their Senior Citizen ID cards, prescriptions, medicine booklets and authorization letters – and arrange for these to be bought by a team of riders who bring them to the condo’s lobby guard.
The initiative is part of a bigger program called The Good Guys, launched in 2019. The program conducts community-building activities across SMDC properties, ranging from emergency preparedness trainings to family fun days called Happynings, to health and wellness talks and sports and fitness activities. A key sub-component of the program is one that gives special attention to the elderlies, PWDs and other vulnerable groups.
At the onset of the lockdown, The Good Guys team immediately got together to identify the challenges that SMDC residents could be facing as a result of the lockdown. Employees were quick to offer a solution to address the needs of elderlies living alone. They did a quick scan of the elderly SMDC residents, who either lived alone or were living with fellow-elderlies or with minors.
The program has been running for almost two months, servicing nine SMDC properties across the capital.
‘Angels’ on call
For Renie Ignacio, there were no two ways about it. She and her 86-year-old husband Tony were not about to risk going out of their unit, not with her husband’s respiratory condition. Food was not a problem for them as she had access to the grocery and meal delivery services available in her Trees Residences condo in Fairview, Quezon City. But maintenance meds were a different issue altogether. So, she was only too happy to get a call from The Good Guys team offering to take care of her and her husband’s medicine supply.
“Our children are very glad that we live in this community where we have access to everything that we need during this lockdown, and there is always someone that we can call in times of emergencies,” Ignacio narrates. She and her husband had unfailingly attended all The Good Guys workshops, trainings and fitness sessions, pre-Covid. “We love this community. We know all the service staff, we have friends here, and we really feel we are being taken care of,” she shares.
This personal shopping assistance program is both convenient and practical for many elderly residents as some of them do not have a grasp of the nuances of online shopping or electronic banking. Everything is arranged for them – from order-taking all the way to delivery. No apps to be downloaded, no filling out of electronic forms, no risky e-payment schemes.
For Milagros Autencio of Breeze Residences in Roxas Boulevard, who does online shopping, there is an added benefit that this program offers. “Because of the volume of orders that online shops are receiving and the transportation limitations of the lockdown, it takes a few days for my orders to arrive,” she points out. “But with this program, I can have my grocery and palengke items and vitamins the day that I order them,” she says.
Items are delivered the same day they are ordered, or, at the very least, within 24 hours. Not even Typhoon Ambo, which hit the country last month, could stop the Good Guys riders from delivering pre-ordered grocery and medicine items, prompting Eleonor Martinez of Field Residences in Sucat, to write: “You are not only Good Guys; you are angels as well.”
This program may have started as a simple shopping assistance for the vulnerable, but it has evolved to serve another important purpose. Having someone call them on a regular basis gives these elderlies the sense of community that they have been missing.
Psychologists warn that elderlies living alone, especially during this pandemic, may suffer from social isolation. Their social world becomes smaller and their opportunity to socially connect with others decreases. An article published recently by ABC News points to studies showing a link between “persistent feelings of social isolation and loneliness with higher risk of developing certain mental and physical health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and even premature death.”
That is why members of the SMDC volunteer care team regularly call them, even just to ask how the week had been for them. SMDC employee Annie Diche shares that an elderly couple from Sea Residences in the MOA complex would oftentimes send her text messages just to express gratitude for this service, even when they have no orders for that day or week. “It is so heartwarming to know that this small volunteer work that we are doing is making such a huge impact on our senior residents,” she says. Many of these volunteers end up engaging these elderlies in long conversations, and they are only too happy to lend an ear.
Crises have a way of bringing out the best in people. What may seem like a simple act of kindness can lead to a multitude of benefits, not only for those it aims to serve but also for those who serve. It is in times like these that the Good Guys truly come into being.