Seniors over 65 are one of the fastest growing age groups in the United States, but they remain an underserved market. Many do not need home help or home care, but they need help with transportation and shopping. But above all, the elderly want to be accompanied. Dad, a service that calls itself "grandkids on demand," wants to fill the void by connecting students, called Papa Pals, to the elderly.
Named in honor of the grandfather of founder and CEO Andrew Parker, the Miami-based start-up is currently participating in the Y Combinator accelerator program. Seniors can use the Papa app (or a customer service line for those who do not have a mobile device) to book a Pal Papa. Papa Pals could take elderly people to the grocery store or to the doctor, help with chores or teach them how to install a new smart phone or tablet. They also offer a company for seniors, many of whose adult children or grandchildren are busy working or living far away. Dad is currently available in Florida and will start expanding in other states next year.
"What's interesting is that people do not always want to say that they want company, even if their families say so," Parker says. "But when a visit lasts six hours, it's obvious what's the point."
Before launching Dad, Parker was vice president of health systems at the MDLIVE telehealth company. He lived near his grandfather, who had early dementia, and often went to help him shop. One day, however, Parker was unable to run a grocery race. As his workload increased, Parker placed a Facebook ad for an assistant. A woman named Andrea responded and after her family interviewed her and did a background check, she started helping her grandfather regularly.
Experience has made Parker understand that there is a market gap for seniors who, like his grandfather, were essentially independent and did not require a caregiver, but still had need occasional help from someone trustworthy. He decided to leave MDLIVE and started working on Dad to provide what he described as "pre-care".
Papa Pals are students, many of whom study nursing, social work or hospitality. Before being paired with seniors, Papa Pals is undergoing a background check and an audit and inspection of motor vehicle records. The company also asks them to pass a personality test. Parker describes the ideal Papa Pal as not only interested in working with older people for the career experience, but also outgoing, empathetic and patient.
"If you want to be Pal dad to earn a few extra bucks, then this is probably not a good fit," he says.
One of the most requested services is transportation. Many older people need more than one Uber. They also want someone to help them shop and unload bags or sit with them in the waiting room of a doctor. Papa Pals also help with technology, like teaching seniors how to set up Netflix or video chat with their grandchildren. The service starts at $ 15 / hour and a premium membership option allows seniors to interview Papa Pals, choose a team of assistants and request same-day appointments .
Parker says Dad has planned to expand into at least five states next year. The start-up also wants to create an ecosystem of senior services, so when clients begin to need more intensive services like home care, Dad can refer them to his partners.
While there are apps like Honor that help seniors find home care providers, Dad's on-demand service is unique. Parker says that one of the things that will help him retain an advantage against future competitors is his backend, which allows him to quickly match the seniors with the available Papa Pals, which they use his application or phone number. Papa Pals sees an integrated dashboard that allows him to accept appointments, then provides him with requests made by seniors or their families. The system also handles traffic and logistics and algorithmically calculates compensation for Papa Pals (on average, Parker says they make $ 20 to $ 30 per visit, which typically last about three hours).
Dad is currently preparing for the introduction of new Medicare Advantage additional benefits that will cover some of the services that she offers, such as transportation to medical appointments. The decision will come into force next year and Dad has started initial discussions with Medicare Advantage providers, which has about 20 million beneficiaries.
Dad also extends his business-to-business model by working with partners, including senior residences, to provide Papa Pal services to their residents.
"Dad's long-term mission is to support seniors and their families," says Parker. "We see each other at the beginning of the process."