Madelyn Wilson | Lehi Free Press
Caleb Richardson comes from a big family. His grandparents have more than 120 descendants, and many of them live in northern Utah.
Growing up, he thought having tons of family members close by was the norm, but as he entered adulthood, he realized his family was the exception, not the rule.
That’s why he started Helperly in January 2021, a Sandy-based company founded with the goal of providing opportunities for people age 60 and above to connect, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
“Helperly, at the core, is about in-person companionship visits. We help clean and give rides and spend time doing things that they love, because loneliness and social isolation has physical and mental effects,” said Richardson.
According to the CDC, older adults experiencing social isolation and loneliness are 50 percent more likely to develop dementia, and four times more likely to pass away prematurely. Richardson started Helperly as a way to help seniors combat these detrimental effects.
Although Helperly started out as a way for people to have in-person visits from younger people, Richardson soon learned that what most seniors want is to connect with others their own age.
“The mission of Helperly is to make the reality that my grandparents had a reality for everybody,” he said.
“The in-person visits help a lot with that physical aspect, but the social side is the next step: how to connect people over 60 with other people over 60. Most seniors want to connect with other seniors,” said Richardson.
Richardson recognized that there wasn’t an existing online platform to meet this need, so he and his colleague and web developer, Trent, created HelperlyConnect.
The platform provides virtual video chat meetups for seniors to exercise, watch comedy or magic shows, participate in book clubs, speed date, and even just visit face-to-face with someone who has shared interests.
“We have all kinds of stuff, covering connection, learning and entertainment. We have meet-and-greets every day where they can just jump on and know that there will be somebody else in their age group that they can talk to,” said Richardson.
One of the goals of HelperlyConnect is to ensure that there’s something for everyone.
“There’s a huge diversity of activities. They won’t log in just to see two or three activities on a given day, there’s something for everybody. We generally have hundreds, or even thousands of dollars’ worth of activities happening on the platform each week,” said Richardson.
The platform includes activities and resources of all kinds, ranging from financial advisors and book clubs to music lessons and poetry classes, and they continue to introduce new activities and events.
“We’re trying to bring the most to them to get rid of barriers, whether it’s that they physically can’t get out, or maybe they have social anxiety,” Richardson said.
Many seniors may feel uncomfortable using technology, but HelperlyConnect was designed with people like Richardson’s own 88-year-old grandfather in mind. The web page shows events for the upcoming week and includes just three buttons: one for logging in, one for viewing event details and one for joining the virtual meeting.
“It’s pretty simple,” Richardson said. “They don’t have to make a Zoom or Google account, they can even use AOL. It’s all built-in, in a way that even if you’re ‘allergic to technology,’ you can participate.”
Even users with memory loss are able to log on with ease, and the homepage of the app includes an information button, “What is HelperlyConnect?”, in case they forget.
There are daily activities and resources available for free, including group discussions and financial advisors, but some events are only included with HelperlyConnect Plus.
The $25 monthly subscription allows users to access any virtual event, including those that are led by a paid instructor or performer. Richardson says there will always be a free version of HelperlyConnect.
“We have the ‘free-forever’ activities because we really do believe that having accessibility and connection is a human right. There’s always something they can do to meet new friends and interact and connect,” said Richardson.
All of HelperlyConnect’s events are currently virtual, but Richardson hopes to facilitate some in-person events as the community continues to grow.
“My grandparents played a huge role in my development, so this is my way of giving back to them. Just thinking about seniors not having the same connections they had just kind of breaks my heart. It’s a company made out of a passion for helping,” said Richardson.
Learn more about Helperly and HelperlyConnect by visiting helperly.com/helperlyconnect.