Papa App Gives Elderly People 'Grandkids On-Demand' When Their Family Isn't Available

“The biggest thing we’re focusing on is curing loneliness.”

As his grandfather grappled with the symptoms of early onset dementia, Andrew Parker would often help his aging relative with various errands and chores. However, as Parker's workload began to mount, he found it increasingly difficult to help his grandfather tackle these daily tasks. That's when Parker turned to Facebook to recruit someone who'd be able to assist the elderly man regularly. By doing so, Parker soon realized that, while eldercare exists, the market lacks the sort of aid that allows those who are primarily independent to seek occasional help from someone trustworthy and reliable.

Thus, in January, the 30-year-old Miami, Fla. resident launched Papa, a service that provides those who don't need assisted living or in-home care, but are in need of things such as transportation and companionship. As TechCrunch notes, Papa dubbed itself "grandkids on-demand" because the service pairs senior citizens with college students, known as Papa Pals. While Papa Pals are typically students studying nursing, social work or hospitality, each candidate must undergo a background check, a motor vehicle records check and inspection, and a personality test, as the program seeks to recruit those who are also outgoing, empathetic, and patient.

Named in honor of Parker's grandfather, Papa executes many of the tasks the company's founder and chief executive officer used to do himself. Many Papa Pals take seniors to the grocery store or doctor's appointments, as these individuals require more specialized care than other transportation services, such as Uber or Lyft, can provide. Others help with chores around the house or teach seniors how to use modern technology. Regardless of the given task, all Papa Pals ultimately provide companionship to those seniors whose relatives are too busy, or too far away, to help these individuals themselves.

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For example, as the Washington Post.reports, Connie Piloto of Dallas, Texas hired a Pal for her mother, Maria Piloto, 80, who lives in Miami and has dementia. "I asked for someone who could speak Spanish because that's my mom's primary language," she told Tara Bahrampour. "In some ways it's been a lifesaver…Caregiving is hard, and it's even harder when you're thousands of miles away. This helps. It provides another level of care, another set of eyes. It just creates another avenue for her to see folks and talk to folks."

"The biggest thing we're focusing on is curing loneliness," Parker told the Washington Post. "If a senior calls, they're not calling and saying, 'I'm lonely.' But what starts as a visit to a doctor or a grocery store can go from a two-hour visit to a ten-hour visit."

Loneliness has a huge impact on seniors lives and their health, Parker told A Plus. In fact, studies show seniors who are socially isolatated and lonely face an increased risk of coronary heart disease (29 percent), stroke (32 percent), dementia (64 percent), and death (26 percent), Parker cited.

"When you connect these two distinct generations – both of whom studies say are lonely, per the Cigna Loneliness Study – something magical happens," Parker added. "Human connection is a critical piece."

To use Papa, seniors need only contact the service via its mobile app or by calling its customer service line. Representatives will provide a free consultation to determine the best pairing possible. While Papa's only available in Florida at the moment, Parker plans to expand the company to at least five more states within the next year. Parker also hopes to create "an ecosystem of senior services" to continue helping users as they age and become dependent on more intensive services, such as in-home care. 

After all, the senior demographic – those 65 years of age and older – are growing faster than the overall U.S. population, meaning their need for additional, specialized care will only increase with time. Papa offers aging individuals an opportunity to hold onto their independence as long as they possibly can, while also exposing younger generations to the experience and wisdom that comes along with befriending their elders.

Cover image via  De Visu / Shutterstock

(H/T: TechCrunch)

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