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Sorø Senior Service

Sorø municipality, Denmark

Sorø Senior Service is a network of 60 volunteers who share responsibility for delivering groceries to elderly citizens in the municipality who live far from grocery stores and have difficulty managing the shopping themselves. The service is free but residents must pass a ‘check/visitation’ by a caretaker to ensure eligibility. The groceries are paid for via the internet and delivery is once a week. 

Simple tasks a challenge in rural communities

Mobility often decreases with age making previously simple tasks, such as grocery shopping, a challenge. This is an issue in Sorø municipality, where a number of elderly people need help with grocery shopping because of health concerns, limited bus connections and general lack of mobility.

Retired volunteers lend a hand

In Sorø a group of volunteers meeting frequently for various social activities came to discussing the challenge faced by elderly people who are no longer mobile enough to manage their grocery shopping. They then decided to establish a volunteer group consisting of retired people who had time to take care of grocery shopping for others. The volunteers receive shopping lists for approximately 5 people for whom they purchase and deliver groceries. Payment for the groceries is done electronically. The volunteers usually shop for the same people each time making the selection of certain items easier, for example, choosing their favourite cracker brand.

Social networks strengthen the society

Crucial to the establishment of this initiative was Kaarsbergcenteret, a meeting place in Sorø where retired people gather for various activities. Without these facilities it is less likely that the group who started the initiative would have had the opportunity to come together and develop the idea. Today, the volunteer group strengthen social cooperation in Sorø municipality and thus create a spirit of looking after each other.

Administrative support key to success

Resources are required to manage the logistics of the association as well as to recruit and manage the volunteers who receive the shopping lists and buy and deliver the groceries. Many of the administrative challenges the group faced have been overcome through a shift to digital payments. When operations were in cash and relied upon handwritten receipts there was a high administrative burden, for example, keeping track of payments and ensuring the right amount of change was available.

Key learnings for municipalities

There are two key things that municipalities can learn from this initiative:

  1. Providing physical facilities for community use is a great way to support the establishment of social networks within the community. Through these networks people may be inspired to work together to make a difference and improve the quality of life of others.
  2. Be constructive and open to cooperation with those who present suggestions for new initiatives.

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Page last updated September 2016.