Grandkids on-demand: Programs pair millennials with senior citizens

Organizations are combating loneliness by pairing millennials with seniors.

Andrew Parker founded Papa almost two years ago in honor of his grandfather, whom his family affectionately called ... you guessed it, "Papa."

How 'Papa' was born

"My grandfather had early onset dementia and he tried some traditional services but what he really needed was a companion," Parker told "GMA" about how this idea came to life. "I thought, 'Wow, there are so many college students, maybe we can connect the two.'"

Parker said he tested the service on his grandparents and that they couldn't have been happier with it. Then, he decided to expand this little experiment beyond his own family. And though the original "Papa" is no longer with us, Parker is happy to keep his legacy alive through this service.

Papa is offered to seniors through monthly, hourly or pay as you go rates. The students, called "Papa Pals," earn a little extra cash, an hourly wage, for their help.

"We started looking at the data and it was pretty evident, we could support a lot of people, really focused on curing loneliness, but also helping to take them to the doctor, to the store or helping them be more active," Parker explained.

The loneliest generation

The surprising revelation that came from Papa was that it also helps another segment of the population -- millennials.

A recent Cigna study examined the impact of loneliness in the United States, surveying more than 20,000 adult Americans.

While almost half (46 percent) said they feel "alone," what was also shocking was that the category of "adults ages 18-22 is the loneliest generation."

"Getting the right balance of sleep, work, socializing with friends, family and 'me time' is connected to lower loneliness scores," the study added.

Parker said he realized his company was providing a benefit to seniors but didn't realize also providing this huge companionship opportunity for the student as well.

Now Papa was only made available to the public earlier this year, but is growing fast. In Florida, Parker says there are about 300 or so students working with the company and he has plans for expansion into 10 new cities very soon, including the northeast, southwest and northwest.

"I'v always thought of a million ideas, but the one that happened to affect me from a personal perspective was the one that ended up being the one that worked," Parker said. "It wasn't even an idea, I needed to fill this specific gap I had at the moment and I realized other people have this issue too."

Seniors can give back too

Papa isn't the only option for seniors who need help, companionship or even want to get out of the house and help others.

The Corporation for National & Community Service has a segment of volunteers called "Senior Corps."

The corps is for adults 55 years and older and corporation spokeswoman Samantha Jo Warfield says more than 220,000 seniors are active in the program.

Senior Corps offers an array of options, including one to become foster grandparents for children living with disabilities, troubled teens and more.

Warfield says there's also a work force, which includes seniors who help out after a natural disaster, or the "handyman brigade," where local seniors use their tools to help others out in their homes.

And much like Papa, there is a senior companion program pairing students like those at the University of Maine with seniors looking for company.

“The intergeneration work is so powerful for both of them involved,” Warfield said. “I've talked to Senior Corps volunteers who have said, 'My husband died and I didn’t know what I was going to do.'"

"Now they have a reason to get up and be valued by society still,” she added.