Priority Health and Papa connect older adults with college students to combat isolation, deliver essential services

(Grand Rapids, Mich. – Jun. 9, 2020) As older adults across Michigan struggle with isolation and lack of access to resources during the COVID-19 crisis, Priority Health and Papa are enlisting college students to provide essential services and companionship to the most vulnerable population.

Founded in 2016, Papa connects college students ("Papa Pals") to Medicare members with specific chronic conditions who need assistance with transportation, house chores, technology lessons, companionship, and other senior services. As COVID-19 has isolated seniors in a way our nation has never experienced before, Papa Pals provide a variety of services to help members including:

  • Helping sign up for and use technology services including telehealth.
  • Virtual hangouts to socialize.
  • Pick-up and delivery of pharmacy refills and food.
  • Identifying and preventing COVID-19 email and phone scams.
  • Transporting members to necessary medical appointments.
  • Cleaning and sterilizing frequently touched surfaces inducing mailboxes and doorknobs.

"The unique services which Papa provides are essential today, more than ever," said Dr. James Forshee. Chief Medical Officer, Priority Health. "It is important that through this crisis we help older adults not only get the resources they need, but provide them with that human companionship that we all need at this time."

Before states around the country locked down due to COVID-19, an AARP Foundation survey found around one-third of older adults are socially isolated, which has been linked to increased health risks, including cancer, depression, diabetes and suicide. Although many Papa Pals took their companion to medical appointments or out for a meal before sheltering in place, they have shifted to running errands, picking up prescriptions or hanging out virtually where they can still watch movies or have a conversation.

"Now more than ever, it’s important to support older adults. Loneliness and isolation create a negative ripple effect on one’s health,” said Andrew Parker, Founder & CEO of Papa. “Pairing Priority Health members with Papa Pals immediately improves their lives and drives real health outcomes."

Priority Health is the only health insurer in the state of Michigan to offer Papa's unique services as part of a Medicare plan. While interested Priority Health Medicare members need to have an in-home health assessment to determine eligibility, any senior interested in utilizing Papa’s services can find out more about fees and services at joinpapa.com. In response to COVID-19, Papa’s policies follow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines, ensuring students who volunteer for the program self-check, monitor and quarantine if necessary. For more information on what COVID-19 is, what the symptoms are and how to reduce your risk, visit https://www.priorityhealth.com/landing/about-covid-19.

About Priority Health:

With over 30 years in business, Priority Health is the second largest health plan in Michigan, offering a broad portfolio of health benefits options for employer groups and individuals, including Medicare and Medicaid plans. Serving more than a million members each year, and offering a network that includes 97 percent of primary care physicians in Michigan, Priority Health continues to be recognized as a leader for quality, customer service, transparency and product innovation. Priority Health is the smart choice for people seeking affordable, quality health coverage.