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Youth Mentor Challenge: Q&A with AARP Foundation

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What role can young people play as mentors in the lives of older adults? To add some context to our Youth Mentor Challenge, the OpenIDEO team recently caught up with Lisa Marsh Ryerson, president of AARP Foundation, to learn about the Foundation’s work and get her take on OpenIDEO and our global community:

For those who might not know, tell us a bit about AARP Foundation and Mentor Up:

At AARP Foundation, our purpose is to help improve the lives of adults 50 and over in America who are struggling with inadequate income, hunger, unaffordable housing, and social isolation. We work in communities across the country in collaboration with other organizations – nonprofit and for-profit – to help maximize the positive impact we can make on the lives of the millions of older adults who struggle everyday. So much of our work is made possible with the support of volunteers who provide a level of service/reach that we could not do alone.

Before joining AARP Foundation I spent my career in higher education so I know what young people can bring to the table. I have seen it first-hand.  That’s why Mentor Up and other initiatives that engage young people, like this OpenIDEO challenge, are so critical.

Why does AARP Foundation feel so passionate about activating young people to mentor older adults?

Young people bring a passion and an energy that is very contagious. They can be an inspiration to many older adults. There is reciprocity in the interaction. There is even recent research that supports the benefits to an older person’s overall health when they interact with younger people. And, we know that when generations come together there are benefits for everyone – individuals, communities, the young and the old.

What excites you most about this OpenIDEO challenge?

At AARP Foundation, we never like to stand still. We are always looking for new solutions. So the whole OpenIDEO process stimulates our own creativity and helps us look at these issues with fresh eyes. We also know that good ideas can come from anywhere so the challenge is an opportunity to bring new thinking and new perspectives to help us meet the needs of so many who struggle.

What has inspired you most so far?

The number of contributions and inspirations shared so far has been impressive and encouraging. But we have been most impressed with the thoughtfulness and quality of the OpenIDEO community’s responses. It tells us that people want to help and value older adults.

As we dive into the Ideas phase, what kinds of ideas will you be most excited to see?

Ideally we are hoping to find unique solutions that will grab the public interest – these are ultimately the types of solutions that will have the biggest impact. That means that we will look for ideas that can be scaled up, from local pilot projects into nationally-effective programs. We also want new solutions to be cost-effective so that we can maximize our funds and other resources. We encourage everyone to get involved in this challenge because it provides the opportunity to help so many older people.
Cheers, Lisa, for your thoughtful insights into our Youth Mentor Challenge. 

Have other questions for AARP Foundation? Keep an eye out for Al Browne – national director at AARP Foundation – and other members of the team who are joining our conversations and collaborations. See you in the challenge!
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