By Aine Cryts

In a bid to improve seniors’ quality of life, Aetna, a division of CVS Health Corp., is partnering with a company called Papa to offer “grandkid-on-demand” services to the health insurer’s Medicare Advantage (MA) members.

Robert Mirsky, M.D., chief medical officer for Medicare at Aetna, says the insurer wants to do more than support seniors living in their homes. “It goes beyond [aging in place], to thriving in place,” he says.

Aetna and other insurers are tackling isolation among seniors, driven by issues from lack of mobility to vision or hearing loss. Mirsky also points out that multiple generations no longer live together in the same home — or even nearby — and that contributes to seniors’ loneliness, which compounds their physical and mental challenges.

The benefit will be available to what Mirsky describes as the payer’s “most vulnerable members,” those who are eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, in six counties in Florida: Broward, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach and Seminole.

MA members will have access to a Papa Pal — typically, a college student — who will come to the senior’s home for up to 10 hours a month to help with tasks such as driving the member to doctor appointments and grocery shopping, or simply to provide companionship.

“We find that members like having different Pals. It helps them keep up with social engagement,” Papa CEO Andrew Parker says.

Papa Pals are the “eyes and ears” of the payer, he adds. Once a Pal enters the senior’s home, they can communicate about concerns such as a ripped carpet, which could cause an unnecessary fall. Pals also warn of potential fraud or abuse experienced by the senior.

The company, which recently completed a $10 million Series A round of funding, has also signed contracts with Humana Inc., Alignment Health Plan, Priority Health and Capital BlueCross, in addition to Aetna.