With nourishing food at the root of our well-being, it’s vital that we all have access to healthy choices. With age, eating nutrient-dense food becomes even more important; our metabolism slows and the risk of diet-related disorders grows. But even in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the fresh and innovative restaurant culture thrives, consistent access to fresh, healthy food at home can be a challenge.
For aging adults who already feel isolated in the midst of physical and lifestyle changes, these barriers to basic nourishment can make it even more difficult to navigate independent living with or without home care. But there are organizations in San Francisco committed to dissolving some of the barriers to healthful daily meals, so our aging loved ones can continue to live independently and continue to make empowered decisions for their own happiness and well-being.
Obstacles to Fresh Food in San Francisco
As the Food Access Task Force determined in its evaluation of strategies to expand access to healthy food, a one-size-fits-all approach for the whole of the Bay Area won’t work because of its geographic and cultural diversity. The same is true for our approach to care for aging loved ones. An important aspect of compassionate care is that we consider supportive services that are not only convenient, but that also add to their sense of self and quality of life.
Older adults in the San Francisco Bay Area face several nutrition obstacles including:
- Physical access: Grocery stores and markets that actually stock fresh produce and other healthy options. In many San Francisco neighborhoods, these stores are out of walking distance, making it necessary to drive. Some older adults face mobility issues or don’t have the ability to drive or easily leave their neighborhood.
- Economic access: Food prices in San Francisco are very high—higher than the national average by 23%, according to the Council for Community and Economic Research. This creates a barrier for many adults in retirement, who are managing a budget that is different from what they’ve long been used to while working a steady job.
- Access to knowledge and preparation: Even if older adults do have access to wholesome foods, they must also have the knowledge to reach for the options that are best for their own unique health needs. Perhaps your loved one needs more calcium-rich meals, more fiber intake, or fewer processed foods. And, they must be able to prepare the food or have someone who can assist.
Innovative Options for Nutrient-Rich Food Access
Consider the particular challenges your aging loved one faces as we explore some of the local services that bring wholesome food within reach to help older adults thrive independently. None of these are a one-size-fits-all solution, so you may want to give different services a try—mix and match to find the best fit!
Grocery Delivery and Shopping Assistance
Even if you don’t have access to a fresh market close by, grocery delivery is becoming a popular service in San Francisco and other major cities around the country. Here are some options that help alleviate the burden of shopping for food in person by having it delivered right to your door:
- Good Eggs is a Bay Area-born website where you can order your groceries through their virtual market and schedule a delivery time for the same day. This is a great option if you’re interested in eating produce sourced locally around the San Francisco area.
- Instacart allows you to order your groceries online, then personal shoppers go pick out your items from local stores before delivering them to your door. This option offers a little extra personal attention, since you can specify how ripe you want your produce to be, and you know someone is selecting each item individually.
- Safeway chains offer home delivery as well. The fees tend to be a bit higher compared to other delivery services, but with your Safeway Club Card you can store your shopping lists to make the next “visit” even easier.
Grocery delivery can be a very convenient way to overcome common barriers to stocking pantry shelves with fresh food. A lot of older adults are already pretty tech-savvy, thanks to San Francisco’s digital literacy programs. But this can also be a great opportunity for caregivers and aging loved ones to work together, planning meals for the week while shopping online markets, making choices that align with specific nutrient needs.
Department of Aging and Adult Services
DAAS is San Francisco’s public agency promoting independent living for older adults through education, nutrition, and in-home services. Reach out to DAAS to learn about the many community resources available, and to find out whether you or an aging loved one is eligible. For needs around healthy food access in particular, DAAS offers:
- Home Delivered Meals: This is a great option for older adults who face barriers to shopping for, storing, or preparing food on a daily basis.
- The CHAMPSS Program: CHAMPSS stands for Choosing Healthy Appetizing Meal Plan Solution for Seniors, and is a program through which eligible participants can visit designated partner restaurants in the city on weekdays for a nutritious meal. The available menus are approved by a dietitian, so you can rest assured you’re enjoying a delicious meal that’s also fulfilling your body’s need for vitamin and mineral-rich fare.
The CHAMPSS Program is also a great way to get aging loved ones out into the community. While strategies for independence are essential to any aging in place plan, it’s also crucial for older adults to maintain personal and social connections within their communities.
PACE is a more widely accessible program. Because DAAS eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis, it may be out of reach for some. PACE at Institute on Aging is a Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), with the express intention of paving the way for aging loved ones to live at home with dignity and compassionate care. IOA is the contracted provider of one of PACE’s centers in San Francisco. Here are some of PACE’s services that help provide opportunities for regular, healthy meals to aging adults:
- In-Home Care Assistance: An in-home care program is tailored to meet each individual’s needs and lifestyle. If an aging loved one needs assistance with shopping and food preparation, a home care assistant is a wonderful position to provide those services while also including the individual in the process. They can explore healthy food options, prepare food, and develop rituals around eating together. Your aging loved one may even have some old family recipes to try. Encourage them to think of ways to adapt these recipes to suit their current health goals, incorporating more vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Nutrition Services: It can be challenging to adjust to lifestyle changes later in life, including changes to diet that can better support an aging adult’s health and energy. Without education and support, these changes can be intimidating and discouraging, but nutrition advice in a constructive community environment can serve to empower older adults who are interested in continuing to discover independence at home.
- Transportation Assistance: Another barrier to an independent lifestyle is a lack of transportation and issues with mobility, especially when San Francisco’s hills and busy streets make walking difficult. PACE at Institute on Aging transportation assistance offers older adults greater independence to seek out fresh food options that may be far away.
- Home-Delivered Meals: PACE at Institute on Aging provides nutritionist-approved meal delivery in combination with other services to enhance individuals’ access to independent living. We customize a plan based on their current health needs—and also so they can be welcomed by our community, all interested in living independently and thriving, thanks to the resources always within reach.
Institute on Aging is committed to promoting an independent lifestyle for our aging loved ones at home, but that does not mean they will be alone. Expanding the Bay Area’s access to healthy food is a community effort. Increased awareness and outreach for the deficit in food access throughout San Francisco has resulted in a range of service options and programs. One may work better for you or your aging loved one as you build a strategy for living at home safely, happily, and fully nourished.
Now is a great time to reach out and learn how each of these services might fit into an aging loved one’s weekly routine. Living independently is a journey of constant evolution that older adults can travel with grace and power, as long as they have the proper fuel to help them face challenges along the way.
Nutrition, education, and delivery are just some of the many services Institute on Aging offers. Get in touch with us to learn how our vibrant community can serve you or your aging loved one in cultivating an independent lifestyle.