By Carol Brzozowski
City & Shore Magazine
A few years ago, Andrew Parker took note of some of the challenges his grandfather – whom he called Papa – began to face as dementia set in.
In response, Parker – a Broward native and Miami resident – and Alfredo Vaamonde launched Papa, a service enabling people over age 65 to live independently at home by pairing them with college students through on-demand requests for assistance with transportation, technology lessons, grocery shopping, running errands, pet care, laundry, cooking, organizing and light cleaning.
The Papa platform is accessed via mobile app, desktop or telephone. Users schedule appointments via desktop at joinpapa.com, the Papa mobile app, or by calling 1-800-348-7951.
Papa supports people at the initial part of their aging journey – the place between “I’m fine” and “I need care,” Parker says.
While 65 percent of the people calling are older, the rest are caregivers, including those in the “sandwich generation” juggling care for aging parents, their own children and jobs.
Parker says most older adults hesitate to ask for and receive care.
“By connecting them to ‘grandkids on demand,’ they actually are excited about it,” he says. “It supports them without them feeling like they’re being cared for.”
The highly vetted college students are called “Papa Pals.”
“It’s valuable to our students not only as a flexible job, but experience for a future job,” Parker says. “We encourage them to incorporate this into their resumes as they go on to become nurses, doctors, social workers.”
Papa Pal Taytum Santiago, 22, of Pembroke Pines, says that spending one-on-one time with Papa members has given her the opportunity “to bond with them and find meaningful ways to provide them the care they need. This experience will be a great tool for me when working in the nursing field. I will be able to provide better care for elderly patients who may have unique needs due to their age.”
Launched last January, Papa has expanded throughout Florida with seven new markets planned this year and a presence in every major city by 2020. The company recently secured $2.4 million in a seed round led by Initialized Capital, which will help fund its expansion.
Papa recently formed a partnership with Humana, enabling its Medicare Advantage members to enroll in the service. About 10,000 people age into Medicare every day.
“Humana recognizes the negative impact loneliness and social isolation can have on one’s health,” says Parker, adding other healthcare company partnerships are on the horizon.
A University of California, San Francisco study found more than 40 percent of older Americans suffer from loneliness, which has been linked to mental and physical decline.
“We’ve found that Papa goes beyond helping with everyday tasks – it helps solve the loneliness crisis,” Parker says.
PHOTO by Dremex, Inc.: Papa member Margarita Terkiel and Papa Pal Emely Rodriguez, left.