The Magnitude of Mentorship as an Older Adult
While reflecting on the past, fortunate people will immediately recall someone who made a lasting impact on their lives. It may have been a coach, a teacher, a parent or a neighbor, but one throughline is shared by all: the powerful and lasting influence of having a mentor. The process of mentoring and sharing guidance is a valuable and life-changing experience for mentees and can be just as significant for mentors.
Intergenerational mentoring is a mutually beneficial way to provide both youth and older adults with new perspectives and opportunities for happier and healthier lives. For older adults, sharing life experiences and critical advice with young people can help dismantle generational barriers while fulfilling a sense of purpose many desire.
We often think that loneliness and isolation are the exclusive domain of older adults, forgetting that young people experience these same emotions. With mentorship, the generations can come together to create a sense of belonging and stability. Youth who receive mentorship, specifically from older adults, have higher self-esteem, improved leadership and communication skills and often find themselves more willing to explore new ways to learn and grow.
Among its many benefits, mentoring is a great way to diminish ageism and educate younger people about the aging process, expanding their empathy and strengthening their understanding of what others are experiencing. While mentees benefit from improved self-awareness, respect for their elders and other insightful perspectives, mentors gain invaluable knowledge themselves, creating a dynamic, elastic system for communities to thrive together.
Anyone can be a mentor. The process is uniquely flexible and can be as easy as offering advice and creating a safe space for younger family or community members to visit if they ever need assistance or support. For those who prefer more structure, there are numerous mentorship programs in Bronzeville and around Chicago that anyone can join.
AmeriCorps Seniors Foster Grandparents Program, offered through the Chicago Department of Family & Support Services, allows volunteers age 55 and up to care for and guide Chicago’s youth, enriching the lives of everyone involved. The program actively serves 3,500 Illinois children and provides everything from educational support to essential care some may need. To learn more about their program and how to become involved, visit their website here.
Mentorship is a critical asset to youth, older adults and communities that shapes positive outcomes in all directions. For older adults aspiring to empower others and share their essential voices, mentoring is the opportunity you’ve been seeking.