College Students Become ‘Grandkids on Demand’ with This Side-Gig App

Young woman helping senior woman walking in the street
Silvia Jansen/Getty Images

The Papa app connects college students with senior citizens who need a little extra help in their day-to-day activities. Along the way, these ‘grandkids on demand’ provide companionship — and earn extra money through a steady side gig.

Since its 2016 launch, the Miami-based startup has operated in college hubs around Florida. But Founder and CEO Andrew Parker confirmed with The Penny Hoarder plans to expand to more states.

Parker founded the company after his own grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. As his grandmother struggled to care for her husband — whom Parker called “Papa” — he hired a college student to help out.

The arrangement worked, and Parker realized the perfect match he had stumbled upon: tech-savvy college students who need a side income and seniors who need assistance with transportation to appointments, errands or hands-on iPhone lessons.

But there’s another tie that binds these two seemingly different groups: loneliness.

“The two loneliest generations are older adults and college-age individuals,” Parker says.

The research is on his side. According to a May 2019 study by Cigna, it’s not seniors who rank as the loneliest, rather Generation Z (ages 18 to 22). The study also notes one of the best ways to combat this epidemic is through “frequent meaningful in-person interactions.”

“By connecting these distinct generations, we are able to break down barriers and form real relationships,” Parker says. “Papa brings value to both sides of the platform.”

How College Students Can Become Papa Pals, Get Paid to Help the Elderly

College students in one of the dozens of partner cities can apply to become a Papa Pal, which the company dubs “grandkids on demand,” for seniors who need a helping hand or a friendly face.

These part-time positions are only available to college students. Beyond that, no specific experience is required, but students studying nursing, medicine or psychology get bonus points. (All college, university and technical school students in the approved areas are welcome to apply.)

Other requirements for Papa Pals include a reliable four-door car and appropriate car insurance. All applicants must be able to pass a thorough background check, and the approval process takes between two and 10 business days.

The two loneliest generations are older adults and college-age individuals.

Papa Pals make between $11 and $12 an hour, and additional compensation is provided for gas and tolls. Pals who work 50 hours or more during the first month receive a $100 bonus. The app offers other weekly performance bonuses as well.

While the app is broadly focused on helping the elderly, the company provides guidance on what services Papa Pals can and can’t do.

Approved services include:

  • Transportation regarding doctor’s appointments, pharmacy visits, beach outings and general errands.
  • Chores such as light cleaning, organizing, laundry and meal prep.
  • Social activities like going to movies and restaurants.
  • Tech lessons about computers, social media and smartphones.
  • Help caring for pets.

Banned services include:

  • Grooming
  • Bathing
  • Bathroom assistance
  • Drug administration
  • Anything that makes the Papa Pal uncomfortable

Seniors who book Papa Pals aren’t required to use the app. Though that is an option, they can also make reservations on the website or by calling Papa directly. It costs a flat $20 to book a Papa Pal for an hour. After that, the fees are calculated on a per-minute basis.

A $30-a-month membership allows seniors to interview prospective Pals and choose from a pool of students in their area. Otherwise, Papa pairs them automatically.

The app is offered in cities in Arkansas, California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He specializes in ways to make money that don’t involve stuffy corporate offices. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.