Grandkids-on-demand service launched for lonely seniors

Posted Oct 12, 2018 by Tim Sandle
For lonely seniors in search of companionship, a new app offers a service where college students can connect up with elderly people around the world to offer support and friendship.
File photo: An elderly man reads a poster calling for a demonstration  in Athens  on June 26  2015
File photo: An elderly man reads a poster calling for a demonstration, in Athens, on June 26, 2015
Louisa Gouliamaki, AFP
As an example of how the on-demand economy is expanding, the new connecting service offers a means to address loneliness with the elderly as well as providing an income stream for college students. The new service is called Papa and it takes the form of a mobile app, computer link or telephone service. The app works by connecting college students with adults aged over 60 (classed as 'seniors').
Papa was developed through Y Combinator’s accelerator program, and the app attracted investment to the tune of $2.4 million, with the majority of the cash coming from Initialized Capital. This is sufficient backing for the service to be expanded throughout Florida as well as five additional U.S. states in 2019.
The on-demand economy is a digital marketplace that provides quick access to goods and services. Many of these services are provided the gig economy. Many of these new services are built using mobile technologies. While some providers are successful, the intensity of competition in this field means there are many failures. Attracting investors is a key prerogative for most startups entering the on-demand economy arena.
The service works by an elderly person requesting a “Papa Pal” via the mobile app. Once a suitable young person has been selected (the terminology 'pal' is used), the senior can be taken out for an activity or pop round play a game or simply to engage in conversation. The selection process, described as 'rigorous', can be completed in about 30 seconds. Use of the service costs seniors $20 per hour. Of this, $12 of which is paid to the students and $8 is returned to Papa.
Papa's CEO Andrew Parker explained the origins of the service in a recent interview with TechCrunch. Here Parker explains: "I’ve always been a connector of humans. I’ve always naturally felt comfortable with all walks of life and all age groups and have just felt human connection is really critical."