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College Students in South Florida Are ‘Grandkids’ for Hire

Seniors love it.

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Once Andrew Parker’s grandfather was diagnosed with dementia, his grandmother needed a little extra help taking care of him, so he decided to hire a college student to help her out.

“I said, ‘Hey, can you go hang out with my grandfather and make him a sandwich or something? I’ll pay you, let’s see how it goes,” Parker recalled.

The idea was a huge success, as both Parker’s grandfather and grandmother loved having someone else around. This got Parker thinking. In January, the 30-year-old Miami resident launched a business called Papa, named after his grandfather.

The company’s slogan is “Grandkids On-Demand”, as it connects students in South Florida with seniors so they can help them out with basic chores, run errands, or just hang out.

“We are specifically a service that links two generations. Our emphasis is this is a really fun day for a senior. Someone who might say, ‘I don’t want to bother my daughter or son but I want someone who can be with me for a day so I don’t have to annoy my kids,’ ” Parker said.

Currently, the company has around 250 members who pay a monthly fee of $15 to $30 to remain a member, and pay $15 per hour for visits by their Papa Pals. To qualify, Papa Pals must be enrolled in a four-year college, or be working on a master’s degree, a social work degree, or a nursing or medical degree, as well as having a four door car and passing a background check. The company specifically looks for students for people with empathy, patience and the ability to create intriguing conversation.

“The biggest thing we’re focusing on is curing loneliness,” Parker said. “If a senior calls, they’re not calling and saying, ‘I’m lonely.’ But what starts as a visit to a doctor or a grocery store can go from a two-hour visit to a ten-hour visit.”

Seniors might go to the park, the mall, or sit on the beach with a Papa Pal. The visits usually lasts three hours, but can potentially go for up to ten hours.

As of today, the service is only available in Florida, but Parker intends to expand his business to 10 more states next year.

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Gigi Foster is a student at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She's a midfielder on the women's soccer team and is studying ocean sciences.

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