Grandparents can now rent a grandkid to help with daily tasks or for companionship.
The pals, as they’re often referred to as, help fill the gaps for a senior citizen when their family is unavailable.
Kristy Shannon and Barbara Carroll-Marks have only known each other for a few months but they’re already finishing each other’s sentences.
“I’m just safer, you know,” Carroll-Marks said.
“There’s less chance of her falling or not seeing something on the ground,” Shannon said.
Carroll-Marks is 66, a retired computer programmer. Shannon is 35, and taking health management classes at Palm Beach State.
Today, they’re at the beach. Other days they could be shopping, at church or at an appointment. They're grandma and grandkid, but not in a traditional sense.
Carroll-Marks doesn’t have a nurse to take care of her daily anymore.
“I was very, very unhappy with that. Very,” Carroll-Marks said. “And one day I was scrolling on Facebook and I saw Papa. Called up and they sent somebody and I fell in love.”
Papa is an eight-person, Miami-based service, available throughout South Florida, Ft. Myers and Tampa.
“What we really feel we are doing is combating loneliness,” Austin Burch, Papa's director of member engagement, said
The company has about 250 active seniors and 300 pals. Pals are always vetted students who usually study medicine, nursing or hospitality. The pal is paid hourly, but it’s hard work.
“A woman needed to go to a wedding, so a pal was essentially their date for the wedding. Took her, picked her up, took her to the wedding. They were together for like 10 hours,” Burch said.
Carroll-Marks is a premium member. $30 a month plus $15 an hour provides her a pal seven days a week. Three of them are with Shannon.
“A million,” Carroll-Marks said when asked how many times she's hung out with Shannon. “Well, maybe not a million. But a lot.”
There are two other less expensive plan options.
One of Carroll-Marks's adult children lives about 90 minutes away. The other lives in New York.
“We’re hoping to take a trip to visit him up there,” Shannon said.
It’s an extension of the family, intertwined through companionship, connected online.
“The most important thing is I feel comfortable and I feel taken care of and we can talk and be friends,” Carroll-Marks said.
Papa plans to offer its service throughout Florida by the end of this year. At the beginning of next year, they plan to expand to eight more states.
You can visit them online at www.joinpapa.com or call 1-800-348-7951.