Papa, a service that provides on-demand companionship to older adults, now has gone nationwide and launched a new Papa Health service. Having raised a total of $31 million in venture capital, the startup is eyeing ways to work with senior living providers as it continues to expand.
Founded in 2017, Papa provides on-demand assistance and companionship to older adults through a network of “Papa Pals.” These Pals — many of them college students — earn up to $15 an hour as they keep seniors company and help with transportation, household tasks and other needs.
The company — already backed by Reddit Co-Founder Alexis Ohanian’s Initialized Ventures — raised an additional $18 million earlier this year in a Series B, and on Jan. 5 announced that its services are now available in all 50 states. The company also recently launched an offering called Papa Health.
Papa Health involves so-called Papa Docs, who are physicians, nurse practitioners and behavioral health specialists. Papa Pals can connect older adults to these Docs — at the moment, largely through telehealth — to “harmonize technology, clinical services and health support,” as the company’s website states.
“Several thousand” Papa Pals currently work across the country, and about 30% of visits take place in independent living, assisted living or higher levels of facility-based care, Papa Founder and CEO Andrew Parker told Senior Housing News. And he’s game to work more closely with senior living providers.
“We are offering services mostly through health plans, but we’ve always thought about working with facilities themselves, and one of our earliest customers was a large provider in Florida,” he said.
Partnership could involve a “bucket of hours” that a given facility would have per month, through which any resident could schedule a Papa Pal visit. Those visits, in person or virtual, now could include connecting the resident with a Papa Doc. The cost to a provider would be dependent on the particular needs of the resident population, Parker said.
Senior living providers might balk at essentially expanding residents’ care teams — sometimes already large and suffering from a lack of communication and coordination — to include Papa. But on the other hand, providers are seeking new ways to bolster their health care offerings in light of Covid-19.
Having access to Papa Pals and Papa Docs could resonate with consumers who want to see that senior living communities have clinical capabilities and ways of alleviating resident isolation if another infectious disease outbreak occurs.
In addition, if a partnership is executed smoothly, Papa Pals and Docs could supplement a facility’s staff and alleviate workforce burdens, including new demands related to helping residents with telehealth visits. More senior living providers may need to get creative to supplement their full-time workforce, as these metrics show:
— Employment in CCRCs and assisted living communities declined by 63,500 jobs between March and August — the longest streak of job losses for the industry on record, according to data released by Argentum
— September employment in CCRCs and AL was 6% below the pre-pandemic levels of Feb. 2020
— Hiring has eclipsed turnover as the industry’s No. 1 labor-related concern, according to recent OnShift survey data
Seen through a different lens, Papa is also a threat to senior living, insofar as the service helps older adults avoid moves to community-based settings.
But senior living providers might need to become more comfortable with findings ways of turning competitors into collaborators, given the growth of startups like Papa and UpsideHom. The next year will bring further investment into companies like these, that are taking on the challenges of aging and seeking to alleviate isolation and other problems exacerbated by Covid-19, Parker believes.
“Senior services is now cool,” he said. “It’s hard to ignore the opportunity from an entrepreneurial and VC perspective.”
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