There's an app for that: Vancouver program brings groceries to seniors' doorstep

In rainy Vancouver, grocery shopping can be a drag. Especially for those without access to a car like seniors. An app developed by a local is helping seniors order groceries for delivery at no extra charge.

'This is a service that really targets the people who need this most,' says app creator

Vancouver-based app, Anjel, matches seniors with local volunteers who deliver groceries to their home. (Shutterstock / Atstock Productions)

In rainy Vancouver, venturing outside for groceries is often a daunting task, especially for people without access to a car, such as many seniors.

An app developed by nurse Ian Li is helping seniors order groceries for free delivery by connecting them with local volunteers.

Seniors can log into the web-based application, called Anjel, from home and select the items they would like to purchase and have delivered. Volunteers are notified that a senior in their area has placed an order and if they choose to accept the request will purchase and deliver the groceries to the senior's home.

Ian Li, a registered nurse at a Vancouver long-term care facility, says he created the app because existing grocery delivery services are out of reach of those who need them most.

"They either tend to charge say, like a five dollar grocery deliveries pickup fee, or they mark up their prices on their [website]...  The people who need the service most are the people who are like seniors, people who are on fixed income, young families."

In-store prices available online

Li, who has no software-developing experience, spent months researching how to create an app seniors could use to order groceries at no extra charge.

He manually adds food items from budget-friendly grocery stores like No Frills and the Real Canadian Superstores to the Anjel website at the same pricing that would be found in stores.

"The database seems pretty small but we have maybe like 200-300 items on the site right now," says Li. "I've added a function where seniors can add requests for a custom item."  

This spring, Anjel finally launched a pilot project with the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House.

"Volunteer response has been overwhelming. It's been awesome," says Claudine Matlo, the Neighbourhood House's director of community programs.

A handful of seniors are currently using Anjel, some of them placing weekly orders which are often filled by volunteers within 24 hours.

Organizers hope to expand grocery program

Li and Matlo believe they have the capacity to register more, but the challenge is teaching seniors who may not be tech-savvy to use the website.

"The only sort of barrier right now is is really getting into the seniors homes to help them learn how to use the app right," says Matlo.

Li has created a series of video tutorials on Youtube to train volunteers and seniors to use Anjel.

Another solution is having shoppers' family members register and order groceries on their behalf.

Li's one-man operation currently involves him spending approximately five hours a week adding new foods to the website and handling transactions between seniors and volunteers. He also pays for the website to be hosted online out of his own pocket.

"I work in long-term care and my passion has always been to help seniors in the community," says Li.

About the Author

Eva Uguen-Csenge

Journalist

Eva Uguen-Csenge is a multimedia reporter for CBC News in Vancouver. Get in touch with her at eva.uguen-csenge@cbc.ca or on Twitter @evacsenge for story tips.

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