June 21, 2019

From ‘rented’ grandkids to tech tutoring, these programs encourage healthy, happy seniors

Here are three stories on how local innovation can make a difference in everyday lives

Organizations around the country are developing ways to connect senior citizens with the rest of their community. Photo via StockSnap/Pixabay.

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight the innovative solutions people are creating in their communities. These are some new and innovative ideas to help senior citizens. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at info@therenewalproject.com.

Grandkids On-Demand. Many senior citizens can feel lonely or isolated. And studies show that loneliness can have a dramatic effect on mental and physical health. Andrew Parker founded the company Papa in 2016 to help support senior citizens and their families throughout the aging journey. The company helps connects senior citizens in need of company with college students or young adults, or “grandkids on-demand.”

Parker started Papa because of his own experience with his grandfather. He struggled with juggling his daily life while still giving his grandfather the social connections that he needed to thrive.

The students and young adults who participate, also known as Papa Pals, help take their matches to doctor appointments, drive them around, teach them how to use technology, run errands, get groceries, do chores around the house, or just have a friendly chat. First originated in Miami, Florida, Papa is now available in other major Florida cities, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, and continues to have plans to expand throughout the U.S.

Last week, Vice News featured Nilsa Torres, a 70-year-old, and her 91-year-old mother, Ignacia Rodriguez, who used Papa to connect with get weekly visits from local college student Christine Perez. Since using Papa, Rodriguez started eating again, gained weight, and started became more open to have daily conversations and participating on walks.

A Smart New Hub. Smartphones are an important part of America’s everyday lives, but not everyone knows how they work. With this in mind, a girl scout troop in Arlington, Virginia, decided to host a clinic last week to teach the senior citizens in their community how to use their smartphones.

Calling it “TechBridge,” Troop 60013 answered questions from local senior citizens on the best ways to use their smartphones and other technology. The girl scouts helped with data backup, cloud storage, social media, password security, app downloads. They also tackled how to text their family members and friends.

Troop member Sarah Middleton told CNN that the clinic helped 10 people. “I was teaching this older woman how to text people, and the first thing that she did was text her daughter,” Middleton said “ I thought that was really sweet, and it just made me feel really, really happy.”

What started as a way for these scouts to receive the Girl Scout Silver Award—the highest award a Girl Scout Cadette can earn—is now an ongoing project. The troop plans to host more clinics in the future.

Tiny Homes, Big Impact. Veteran homelessness is a huge problem across the U.S., but now a nonprofit is offering a tiny solution to this big issue. Operation WEBS: Women Empowered Build Strong was created to help empower veteran women to rebuild their lives by providing tiny homes. This week, the organization hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the first phrase of their three-part plan.

After serving in the military, founder Sandy Blair struggled with unemployment for over a year. She opened Operation WEBS with the hope that she could provide some stability for other veterans when they struggled with what she went through. In 2018, Blair opened up a stability home offering affordable housing in California. Her next mission? Create a tiny house community for female veterans which will help them go through the healing process together. Blair wants the village located from the city to allow veterans to participate in outdoor activities like farming. Through this community, Blair hopes they will develop a sense of empowerment, independence, and security.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.