Grandpal’s platform has brought older people 800 hours of companionship

31 Oct 2019

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Grandpal was co-founded by Brian Daly after he spent years living with his grandmother and realised the benefits this companionship had for the pair of them.

Irish start-up Grandpal has said that more than 800 hours of companionship have been logged on its platform since it was founded last year.

Set up by Brian Daly and William Hollacsek in 2018, Grandpal wants to end the loneliness that elderly people often experience.

While studying and working in Dublin, Daly spent a number of years living with his grandmother and saw first-hand the impact that this companionship and quality time had on the pair of them. He is now the CEO of Grandpal, while Hollacsek is the CTO.

They created a platform that can connect people who have spare time each week with a local older person who could benefit from the additional one-on-one time.

Grandpal can be used by families looking to improve the quality of life of a relative, nursing homes that are under pressure to provide the social care that residents deserve, or volunteers who would like to make a friend and do something positive with their free time.

Daly said: “Nursing homes are very good at delivering traditional medical care, but they have failed to deliver a sufficient level of social care due to their current staffing model.”

Growth to date

Grandpal also announced that almost 800 people have signed up to make nursing home visits through the platform already.

Ruth Healy, head of communications at Grandpal, told that the start-up is currently focused on recruiting Gen X ‘Grandpals’, as well as people aged between 40 to 60. “Straight away, they were the largest demographic to initially display interest in Grandpal. Plus they are incredibly reliable!” she said.

The company is looking for patient, kind and respectful volunteers. Then, Grandpal provides training through its app, which teaches volunteers how to safeguard vulnerable adults and communicate with an individual living with dementia, as well as skills such as manual handling and mobility. The start-up will interview every candidate over the phone, before they are Garda vetted.

According to the company, there are currently 120 nursing home residents in Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare who are benefitting from Grandpal’s services.

“Our aim was to be in 10 nursing homes in a closed beta to see what works, what doesn’t and to iron out different creases. Several more have joined as it made sense for us, geographically,” Healy said. She added that the company plans to react to the huge demand from the family market in 2020.

Co-founder Daly said: “We’ve been blown away by the interest Grandpal has gotten from people all over the country. It’s amazing to see how many good people there are out there who want to give and to be there for someone else.”

How Grandpal is being used

While Grandpal offers a service to nursing homes, it can also help families with older relatives that could use some company during weekdays when everybody’s busy at work, or at other times when it’s not possible to check in on a relative.

The start-up detailed how one Melbourne-based user, who wanted to take care of a parent back home in Ireland, said: “Grandpal have been a lifeline for my mum. She’s had to move into residential care due to dementia.

“Leaving her home, and long-term neighbourly friendships, has been a heart-breaking adjustment for her to have to make. Grandpal has given mum an opportunity to form new friendships, that is enriching and stimulating for her.”

The platform is being used at Elm Hall nursing home in Celbridge, where volunteers have come up with some fun and unique activities to take part in with the residents.

One of the volunteers was paired with an older woman from Germany and each week when they meet up, they explore the world on Google Maps. The volunteer said she showed the resident the town in Germany where she spent her childhood, which the volunteer said was a lovely experience for both of them.

Another volunteer spoke about how she was paired with a resident who is visually impaired, so she has had to come up with some activities they can do together that rely on his other senses. She has spent her time bringing him different herbs, which he loves to smell and chat about.

David Wallace, the director of nursing at Elm Hall, said: “Grandpal has made a huge difference here at Elm Hall. Every day of the week there’s someone new dropping in.

“It has allowed residents who have had difficulty engaging with some of the group activities. [It helps] them to come out with the support of their Grandpal to take part in things that they wouldn’t have done.”

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic