What are intergenerational mentioning programs?
Simply put, they are programs designed to increase the sense of self-worth and community involvement among seniors by allowing them to participate in local youth activities and provide a guiding hand to those who need a helping for local youth.
These programs, typically designed to assist at-risk youth, those who will have a harder time transitioning into adulthood successfully.
And as I learned at the recent Aging-In-Exurbia event, seniors truly do want to remain productive and contribute to society. These types of programs are one way of achieving that.
These at-risk youth could take the form of those with single parents, who have been in trouble with the law, in foster care, etc…
The relationships between the volunteering senior and the young adult, however, are designed to assist both.
While the young adult receive mentorship from an impartial source, it could be argued that the senior actually gets more out of the program.
Some of the benefits could include…
- Increased self-esteem
- Improved health outcomes
- Reduced isolation
- Increased academic achievement (for the young adult)
- Reduced delinquent behavior
- Improved social emotional skills
The program primary purpose is to help the at risk youth, where intergenerational mentoring…
…is a suggested strategy to increase mentors’ sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and well-being (YG-Mentoring, CDC-Thornton 2002, SCL 2016, PIRE-Thompson 2014). Older adults who participate in intergenerational mentoring programs become part of a network of volunteers and develop meaningful relationships with their mentee(s) (YG-Mentoring). Available evidence suggests that intergenerational mentoring can also improve social connectedness, physical and mental health, functioning, and self-esteem for mentors (PIRE-Thompson 2014, Glass 2004).1
These are the benefits for the seniors, but what about the youths…
Intergenerational mentoring can improve participating youth’s attitudes toward aging and older adults, increase academic achievement and social development, and decrease substance use and school absences (PIRE-Thompson 2014). Overall, mentoring programs increase positive educational outcomes for participants (Campbell-Wilson 2011) and appear to reduce delinquent behavior for youth at risk of delinquency
(Campbell-Tolan 2013, DuBois 2011).
There are many such programs across the country like this…
Many intergenerational mentoring programs exist across the country. For example, Across Ages, which started in Philadelphia, PA and now has over 50 sites, Experience Corps, which is in sixteen states and Washington DC, and Intergenerational Bridges in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC (HFRP 2012, SAMHSA-NREPP, AARP-Experience Corps, JCA-Interages programs).
If you live in one of these areas, you can contact them directly. If not, I would reach out to your local or state Office of the Aging for more information to see what is available in your area.