Neighborli, Connecting Seniors to Their Communities

This initiative aims to facilitate connection of students and seniors through paid errands such as grocery pickups, house cleaning, tech assistance

Joss Arnott // Staff Writer 

Neighborli is a website taking inspiration from apps like Tinder and Uber to help restore intergenerational communities in Vancouver. Neighborli is currently beta-testing, but upon launch, it will allow seniors to pay students in their community for help around the house. “You’re not getting a nurse that’s driving all over the place just to help you and then leave,” said Vanessa Parrotta, a research assistant for the project. “You’re getting a neighbour.”

The program is designed for the sandwich generation—a group of people between the ages of forty and fifty—who juggle the task of caring for both their children and ageing parents. “I like to think about [Neighborli] as for my mom,” said Parrotta, who explained that her grandparents live alone and frequently call upon her mother for help with things around their house. “My grandparents don’t want to admit that they need help. Neighborli makes it easier for them to accept it.”

While Neighborli isn’t meant to replace medical services, it does have its place in the elder care ecosystem. Neighborli functions as a supplement to at-home nursing services. Helpers won’t be asked to help with medical care, but will instead help by picking up groceries or prescriptions, cleaning the house, helping with tech problems and applying for government benefits online. Neighborli has seen interest from many notable organizations in British Columbia, such as the BC Ministry of Health, Lionsview Senior Planning Society, North Shore Community Resources, Capilano University, North Shore Keep Well Society, and the North Vancouver School District.

Parrotta likened Neighborli to a hybrid of Tinder and Uber. “Neighborli is about being able to go online and book the help, with who you want,” she said. Users will be able to pick from a selection of helpers on the website—choosing either people they’ve worked with previously or someone new. These helpers, ideally local students or young adults, would be available at a moment’s notice to help out, much like booking a ride or ordering food with Uber.

Through their work with Neighborli, volunteers will connect with the older generations in their community. “I think it’s important not just for older people, but for the students as well,” said Parrotta, hoping that seniors will benefit from telling their stories and that students will learn from them. “I think there is still a lot to learn—seniors are full of wisdom.”

COVID-19 affected Neighborli’s plans, with restrictions limiting it drastically. “Originally, students would have been able to go into the home and do meal prep, tidying up, things that are in person,” said Parrotta. However, the core goal of connection is still very much intact. Parrotta expressed her concern with seniors’ mental health, worrying that pandemic restrictions were isolating them in their communities more than ever. Parrotta explained that helpers will only be doing COVID safe activities, saying that the most important task volunteers will be doing is checking in with seniors and delivering essentials to their doors.

Neighborli is currently beta-testing their website, with hopes of launching later this year. The project is currently looking for approximately ten volunteers to help with the beta test and work out any kinks in the system the Neighborli team has developed. “We need volunteers to go through and carry out some of the services in a COVID safe way—you need to just be empathetic and willing to help out,” said Parrotta. “I hope that Neighborli facilitates a connection between people and creates empathy and connection.”

Once the app launches, volunteer positions will become paid ones. If you’re interested in the project, feel free to visit the Neighborli website for more information or contact support@neighborli.org.

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Joss Arnott

Staff Writer

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