The National Generation to Generation campaign has just launched a three month effort to specifically mobilize older adults to become mentors in their community. There are over 9 million young people in need of mentors and 100 million adults over 50 who have the time, talent and wisdom to offer to these children!!
Stanford Longevity Institute did an extensive study about the results of older adults mentoring young people. That research showed that the presence of a caring adult, committed to their development, is the critical success factor for dealing with the obstacles and challenges confronting young people.
It is important to understand the profound impact that a mentor can have on a person’s life. The best way to understand that impact is to go personal-to think back to a time when you were impacted by a special mentor in your life. One of the most important mentors in my life was a college professor in graduate school. I was at a critical point in my life trying to decide what my career path would be and whether I had what it took to complete my graduate school education. I was working full time and going to school full time and dealing with some pretty serious family drama. Dr. Jerry Harvey saved my life. He saw more in me than I saw in myself. He had a way of challenging me, while pointing out my strengths and achievements. He told me that failure and big potholes were an important and necessary part of my life. Through the next two years I learned to stop beating myself up and questioning my abilities, allowing me to recognize and embrace the career path I had chosen. This is just one example of what is happening with children everywhere- trying to figure out who they are, not aware of the gifts that have. They do not have the tools and support that they need to navigate all the challenges of growing up!
“Every child needs at least one caring adult who is irrationally crazy about him or her” – Urie Bronfenbrenner (founder of Head Start)
BUT WAIT- MENTORING IS NOT JUST A ONE WAY EXPERIENCE!
Here is the amazing thing about mentoring… as you are helping that child- there is a tremendous impact and benefit to YOU in this mentoring relationship. Mentoring is actually a two way street where the old are helping the young and the young are helping the old. I love reading the stories and testimonials from adults in our Gen2Gen Campaign, where people report learning more about themselves and life. Mentoring helps them see things differently from a child’s perspective and teaches them skills they do not have! Most important, mentoring gives you a purpose, a reason to get up in the morning, to feel needed and valued as an older adult.
BUT WAIT- THERE IS MORE!!
Recent research has shown the mental and physical benefits that older adults experience as a result of mentoring and working with younger generations. Scientists have begun to document that close and caring relationships are undeniably linked to health and well-being. (Read about all the benefits from the Milken Research Report here).
- Older volunteers/mentors experience a reduced risk of hypertension, delayed physical disabilities, enhanced cognition and lower mortality rate.
- Harvard Medical School reported that people involved in mentoring activities were three times as likely as their peers to experience joy instead of despair and isolation.
- Scientists have found that purposeful activities may slow down the rate of decline of Alzheimer’s.
- Mentoring can address one of the biggest issues facing adults today – depression and isolation.
MENTORING IS A WIN- WIN- WIN – WIN
Mentoring can make a tremendous impact on a child’s life, the mentor’s life and family, youth serving organizations and the community as a whole!! Marc Freedman (founder of the Encore Movement and the Generation to Generation campaign) recently did an inspiring TED Talk “How to Live Forever” where he talked about how helping future generations truly is the key to living forever.
“It turns out that the Fountain of Youth is really the “Fountain WITH Youth!! – Marc Freedman
WHAT IS MY FIRST STEP?
If you have been thinking about volunteering and getting involved in the community but have a million reasons or barriers that get in the way of that first step, NOW is the time to push aside those excuses. NOW is the time to take the first important step of finding the opportunities or ways that you can get involved. GOOD news- there are over 100 Youth Serving organizations eager to connect with you. The children in our community are desperately in need of a caring adult, whether it is for 4 hours a month reading to a child (Reading Pals) , or 6 hours a month helping with an after school program or 8 hours a month to be a Big Brother or Big Sister.
WHERE DO I LOOK FOR THESE OPPORTUNITIES?
- Encoretampabay.com (under Encore Opportunities)
- Volunteer Match
- Hands on Suncoast
- Gen2Gen Mentor Connector
- Or go to the website of any youth serving organization that you are interested in.
With over 800,000 adults over 50 in our Tampa Bay area, think about the tremendous impact that we can make for the children in our community. What are you waiting for?? Do something for YOU and your community!!
Encore Tampa Bay