Papa – Florida’s grandkids-on-demand service

Papa – Florida’s grandkids-on-demand service

On January 1, 2011, the oldest members of the Baby Boomers generation celebrated their 65th birthday. At the time, they joined the 13% of Americans who were over that age. Today, around 15.6% of Americans are over 65 as 10,000 people have crossed that age barrier daily since 2011. The size of this portion of the population of the US is expected to more than double in the next 4 decades, rising to 24% and grow to a staggering 98 million from the present 42 million. Many of these seniors are alone and in need of help and company. That’s where Miami’s Papa comes in.

Papa was co-founded by Alfredo Vaamonde and Andrew Parker in Miami, Florida in October 2017. It was born from a real-life example which clearly indicated the need for this service. Andrew was a Vice President at MDLive, where his father was a co-founder. He didn’t have as much time to spend with his grandfather and help him through chores. He posted on Facebook for a helper, and after some interviews and background checks, found his grandfather someone who could assist him on occasion. This experience showed him the need for seniors to have assistance-on-call, without enlisting a full-time attendant. He elected to leave MDLive and start Papa as a form of ‘pre-care’ for seniors.

The need for Papa

The data suggests that Parker and Papa might be on to something. The growing number of seniors means that there is an audience. The fact that 30.5% of male seniors and 56.1% of female seniors were never married or are separated, widowed, or divorced means that many seniors are fending for themselves. Nearly 30% of these seniors were living alone according to US Census data. Further, their health conditions make it harder for them to manage their lives independently. Impaired vision, hearing, difficulty in walking, dressing, or bathing, and even doing errands like shopping were decreasing their quality of life.

Papa was also located in the right part of the country. Florida has a large and growing population of seniors. By 2020, seniors (>60 years old) are expected to make up 28% of the state’s population. These seniors also comprise the second-largest section of the state’s economy with spending power of $135Bn annually. In contrast, residents aged 49 and under have $15Bn less to spend on a yearly basis. Each year, Florida’s seniors pay over $9Bn annually for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Having someone available on-demand to help them with their shopping or taking them to a doctor’s appointment sounds ideal.

Loneliness adds $6.7B to annual medicare spending on seniors.

Papa also positions itself as a means for seniors to combat loneliness. 20 to 30% of seniors report that they are lonely, at least some of the time. Studies show that lonely seniors are at greater risk of poor health and death than their better-connected counterparts. Now, a new study shows that loneliness leads to an additional $6.7Bn in Medicare spending on seniors annually. Parker said that when wondering whether to leave MDLive and build Papa, he thought “If I am ever going to do this, I should do it now. The demographic data is pointing to it.”


Photo credit: Papa’s website

How Papa works

While Papa’s model also provides part-time employment to the ‘Papa Pals’, the company is less focused on this aspect of their value. Candidates are thoroughly vetted, have to go through a background check, and go through a rigorous on-boarding process, according to their website. Papa Pals are most often college students, many from a nursing background. The company also asks them to complete a personality test, and uses this information to filter candidates and match the successful ones with the right seniors for their temperament. Parker says that the ideal Papa Pal should be outgoing, empathetic, and patient, and not interested in working for experience or pay. “If you want to be a Papa Pal to make a few extra dollars, then it’s probably not a good fit,” he adds.

The company takes a membership fee from its senior customers of $15 monthly, and then charges them for the time the Papa Pal spends with them. For Premium members, the membership fee is $30 – but it comes with the ability to shortlist and interview their helpers. Additionally, Premium members get same-day appointments with their selected Pal, and can avail of this service every day of the week. The company offers seniors a variety of services – transport (including airport pick-ups and drops), doctor appointments, shopping trips, household chores, and help with pets. The company also provides their customers ready and safe companionship, caregiving, and even short lessons to help seniors adjust to the latest consumer technologies.

The company claimed in April 2018 that it was on track to pull in $1M in revenue for the year.

Raising their profile – and investment

The company’s unique service and chosen tagline of ‘grandkids-on-demand’ has made it something of a media darling. The company has been covered in the US by ForbesTechCrunchMSNBC’West Palm Beach TVFortune, and even The Washington Post. It even caused a flutter in the United Kingdom, where it was covered by The Telegraph and The Daily MailOver and above the press coverage, co-founder Vaamonde has written out guides and lists of activities which seniors can undertake through the use of the company’s services.

The company had already caught some media attention when they were among the selected startups to pitch to self-proclaimed ‘Mr. Worldwide’ Pitbull from Palm Beach. The company was accelerated by Y Combinator, and recently received $2.4M of venture investments from the funds led by Ashton Kutcher and Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian.

Alexis was quoted by the Miami Herald saying that he believed that the company  “… has found a unique way to combat loneliness and depression in older adults.” The company has spread from Miami and is now also available in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Jacksonville, Naples, Orlando, Palm Beach, Pittsburgh, Port St. Lucie, Sarasota, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Vero Beach. The company has also initiated institutional partnerships, including with the Miami Jewish Health Center, where it works with seniors who have volunteered for research studies, and has indicated plans to expand to other countries with growing senior populations, like UK and Japan.

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