Mentoring can not only make a difference in the life of a child, it can also make a difference in your life. Sharing your time, attention, life experiences and knowledge with a youth can help them channel their talents and achieve goals – while also reducing your stress, improving your brain function and overall outlook on life.

January is National Mentoring Month, established in 2002 by the Harvard School of Public Health and the National Mentoring Partnership, to focus attention on the need for mentors and the positive effect it can have on young lives.

A mentor is a person or friend who guides a less experienced person by building trust and modeling positive behaviors. The Wisdom of Age: A Handbook for Mentors estimates that nearly 15 million young people could benefit from high-quality, formal mentoring relationships.

“I have heard it said that for older adults, mentoring is about living a legacy versus leaving a legacy,” says David Shapiro, CEO of MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership.

While the age of a mentor might seem irrelevant, older individuals often make excellent mentors because of their patience, empathy, and their eagerness to share their wealth of accumulated knowledge and experience.

Intergenerational mentoring is a unique way of bringing young and old together in a purposeful way while developing a mutually beneficial relationship — enabling mentor and mentee to learn from, enjoy and assist each other.

Benefits of Mentoring:

  • Mentors help kids learn and develop new interests
  • Mentors can help stress the importance of education
  • Mentors can help set career goals and take steps to realize them
  • Mentors can help improve a young person’s self-esteem
  • Mentors help with homework and can improve their mentees’ academic skills
  • Young people with mentors are less likely to be involved in risky behavior
  • Teach young people how to relate well to all kinds of people and help them strengthen communication skills.

MENTOR reports that youth who meet regularly with their mentors are 46% less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and 27% less likely to start drinking.

The welfare of future generations, coupled with the commitment to mutual learning is another drive of intergenerational learning.

AARP Experience Corps is regarded as of the nation’s top service programs for volunteers age 50 and older who tutor and mentor kids in 19 cities across the country – providing caring attention to some 27,000 students through literacy coaching, tutoring and boosting overall academic performance.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health found that older adults who tutored children or took part in some other form of volunteer/mentor service were able to delay or even reverse declining brain function.

“Essentially, mentoring young people has been shown to help older adults with executive functioning, organizing and planning more specifically. And, anecdotally, older adults who mentor often say that the experience helps them feel young and stay connected to the next generation while creating that living legacy I referenced,” says Shapiro.

Benefits to Mentee:

  • An increase in self confidence
  • Improvement in memory
  • Better hand-eye coordination
  • Improved social skills
  • Reduction in stress
  • Improved outlook on life

When generations interact, the benefits are clear for both parties and the community at large. Children learn from elder’s wisdom and elders can grow their social network and stay involved in their community. Communities gain awareness regarding issues affecting multiple generations that can help them meet current and future needs.

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