Meal Delivery

Meals on Wheels consists of 5,000 community-based programs nationwide. It harnesses more than 2 million staff and volunteers to deliver free or low-cost meals to seniors, often along with friendly visits, safety checks, and, occasionally, tasks like dog walking or reading aloud. Some programs operate out of senior centers or housing developments that serve meals on location. Most require an application, with priority given to homebound or lower-income seniors. Search for programs in your area by visiting its website, or call 888-998-6325.

There are many ready-to-prep meal delivery services, including Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and Home Chef. Specialty companies include Sunbasket with organic, paleo, and gluten-free options; and the vegan Purple Carrot. Most meals cost $10-$20 apiece and serve two.

There are also several private meal services aimed at seniors’ dietary needs (diabetes, high blood pressure), including Silver Cuisine by bistroMD and MagicKitchen.com. But watch out for high shipping fees: For instance, Silver Cuisine charges $19.95 per order and MagicKitchen.com’s fees start at $18.95. Most ship with dry ice in a cooler or insulated box via UPS or FedEx. (Caveat: There’s usually a lot of packaging to get rid of.)

Restaurant food delivery services exploded in popularity during the pandemic. Unfortunately, we found that the largest companies providing this service—DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats, and their many subsidiaries—charge restaurants hefty fees and commissions for doing very little work. These costs usually total 20 percent per order, but can often exceed 40 percent. Before using a third-party app or ordering service, check with the restaurant to see if it offers its own online-ordering feature, which often bypasses the big middlemen. Some alternative apps, like ChowNow, charge far lower fees.

Grocery Delivery

Perhaps the only positive change born from the pandemic is that now nearly every grocery chain offers delivery, which is convenient for seniors. We’ll redo our ratings and reviews of grocery delivery businesses in fall 2022.

Transportation

Because many seniors must give up their cars, public transportation, ride-sharing, and taxis become vital for getting around.

If you have a smartphone, ride-sharing apps Lyft and Uber offer convenient and inexpensive transportation. You can hire a driver to take just you on a single trip, or use their even cheaper “pool” options and get picked up and dropped off along with others. If you don’t have a smartphone—and don’t want to get one—sign up with GoGoGrandparent (855-464-6872) and call it to connect to Lyft, Uber, or an Instacart shopper. Memberships cost $9.99 a month and then you pay $.27/minute to use its services.

There are also free or subsidized public transportation passes for seniors, plus ride services to help fulfill medical appointments and other basic needs. Check with your jurisdiction’s office on aging or an elder village for options.

In the Bay Area, BART and Muni offer senior discounts.