Get Paid to Help Seniors Sheltering in Place as a Papa Pal

A person brings groceries to someone's door.
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“Grandkids on-demand” are more in demand than ever.

Papa, a company that pairs older adults with young people to combat isolation and loneliness, is ramping up its services as seniors shelter in place. The expansion is creating a slew of virtual side gigs now available nationwide.

Andrew Parker, CEO and co-founder of Papa, launched the company in 2016 to end what he refers to as the “loneliness epidemic.” Gen Z and seniors are the two loneliest age groups. By pairing older adults with Papa Pals, who are typically tech-savvy college students, the company is attacking the issue from both sides.

The tagline “grandkids on demand” was a natural fit.

“The isolation issue has been exacerbated by the fact that everyone has been isolating or, of course, should be social distancing. So, by definition, isolation is obviously more prevalent now,” Parker said.

In an interview, Parker talked about the app’s expansion and how you can find jobs to help the elderly at home as a Papa Pal.

Help Older Adults Who Are Self-Isolating as a Papa Pal

Much has changed for the company in one year. Since the Penny Hoarder first spoke with Parker in May 2019 for our Papa app guide, the company has expanded to more than 25 states and plans to expand to all 50 states by 2021.

The coronavirus is forcing the company into hyperdrive. It’s not just older adults in isolation. Families need all kinds of caregiving help, prompting the company to change its tagline to “family on-demand.” 

The majority of Papa’s services are still geared toward seniors, but Parker said he expects the new familial services to increase.

To help seniors and now families, Papa recently unveiled a slew of new virtual services.

“We created a product called ‘Assistance from a Distance’ where we will go grocery shopping for you. We’ll take your list, we’ll go get it for you, come back to your home, and drop it off at the front door, contact-less,” Parker said. “We do the same with medicine.”

“Prior, we didn’t do a lot of errand-running on behalf of the member. Typically we’d be with the member,” Parker said. “Now we’re running errands and going grocery shopping for members. That’s the key difference.”

In addition to errand running, in-person visits before the pandemic may have included playing board games, meal prepping, light cleaning and other chores. Now, Papa Pals are talking more on the phone.

“The whole concept is: Over time, when you’re talking to someone over the phone, the Papa Pal can find out if they have the technology… and educate them how to use it,” Parker said.

This approach allows Papa to reach seniors who may only be “comfortable with a good old-fashioned telephone” at first, he said. But they’re generally very eager to learn. 

“Papa as a company is doing more visits today than we did before COVID — almost all of them are virtual. I think that speaks for itself in that people are willing to try new things,” Parker said.

Apps like Instacart, a grocery-delivery service, and TaskRabbit, an errand-booking service, presume technical knowledge from their users. Seniors, who would arguably benefit the most from these apps, often get left out. Papa Pals not only walk seniors through setting up smartphone apps but personally shop and run errands for members, making grocery delivery services irrelevant.

Parker noted that Papa’s bread and butter is still companionship. But the new delivery and tech-assistance services are becoming a crucial part of the business. And he doesn’t see them going anywhere.

Become a Papa Pal

Papa Pals can now work remotely via telephone, FaceTime and Zoom calls. 

While the company operates mainly in 25 states, candidates can apply from anywhere in the United States and assist virtually with companionship, tech troubleshooting — even three-way phone calls with health insurance companies to ensure members are getting their meds and utilizing their health benefits. Pals are helping seniors get comfortable with telemedicine calls, a crucial benefit in times of isolation.

Previously, Papa Pal positions were only available to college students in select states.

“We’ve begun to open it up beyond college students,” Parker said. “We expected this to happen always, but really this happened faster because of COVID.”

Requirements for the position include:

  • Availability during at least four weekdays.
  • A great personality.
  • Tech savviness.
  • A valid ID (driver’s license only required for on-site visits).
  • A valid car insurance policy (for on-site visits).

During the hiring process, candidates will have to review a Papa handbook and instructional videos, pass a criminal background check (and a drug test in certain states) and submit photos of their vehicles used for on-site visits.

According to Papa Pal FAQs, the initial screening process will take 48 business hours. Then the company will begin the criminal background check, which could take up to a week.

“Today, something like 30 million people are unemployed because of COVID, and Papa Pal is a good opportunity,” Parker said. “Papa’s demand side is growing quite rapidly. If you want to go and apply on, I highly encourage you to do so.”

Adam Hardy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his ​latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.