Once a week, Karelia Lanuza comes by Viola Zilio's apartment to help her with whatever she might need, whether it’s finishing a puzzle, helping with chores or reminding her to take her medications.
The two will often run errands or go for walks. Often times, they’ll even stop at Zilio’s favorite café to get the traditional Cuban coffee.
Lanuza isn’t a traditional caregiver. She more of a companion, according to Zilio.
The pair met when Lanuza signed up to work for Papa, a new app and phone-based service for seniors.
"Papa connects college students to older adults for companionship, assistance, and transportation,” says CEO and founder Andrew Parker. “It’s kind of like a grandkid on-demand."
Parker thought pairing college students with seniors could fill a void he saw.
“My grandfather, who we call papa, needed help but wasn't really ready for traditional healthcare services, and I thought it was weird there was nothing available before that,” Parker says. “So, I thought it would be interesting to connect him to college student, and he loved it.”
Lanuza is a sophomore pre-med student, and she needed a job that fit with her busy class schedule. She passed the company's background and personality checks and got the gig.
“I came over. I met Viola and we clicked instantly,” Lanuza says. “And from there, I’ve been coming every Tuesday to see her, and we hang out. It’s just like hanging out with a friend.”
Zilio says Lanuza gives her someone to talk to.
"Seeing her once a week is kind of like being like another grandmother to me,” Lanuza says.
Currently in the Miami area, Papa costs around $17 an hour. The service is only operating across Florida right now, but the company says they have plans to expand to several more cities nationwide soon.