By 2035 one in every five people will be over 65. Because of this, the global landscape of what it means to grow older is changing. We are living longer than ever before and are beginning to think differently about ageing. Multiple generations of people over 50 are discovering new ways to thrive in their later years through opportunities like encore careers, becoming a student again or simply diving into our highly digital world.
While the population of older adults is rapidly increasing worldwide, the people who make up this group actually represent multiple generations and life stages facing their own distinct challenges and milestones including retirement or encore careers, financial and job security and staying connected to social circles and support communities. Increased life expectancies are enabling older adults to lead physically and intellectually active lives throughout their later years, which means they are working longer and continually learning new skills.
By contrast, 15-24 year olds are navigating a very different path into adulthood than the generations of older adults before them. For example, young people today are ‘digital natives’ – the only generation that’s grown up practically fluent with new technologies like social media and digital platforms. Most are savvy social connectors – easily constructing personalised networks of friends, colleagues and affinity groups both online and offline.
The Opportunity for Mentoring
Many of us find a sense of purpose through the meaningful connections we build with each other. Often when we talk about mentorship, it’s easy to think about a one-sided relationship with age being the defining factor. This can feel especially true for mentoring relationships across generations, with the implication often being that only older adults can mentor young people, and not vice-versa. Relationships where one person is either only a recipient or only a provider often feel inherently unbalanced or transactional. True mentoring exists outside of age, when someone more knowledgeable about a topic helps a less experienced person grow in that space.
People of all ages thrive when we can make meaningful connections with others. When both people in a relationship have the opportunity to equally give and receive, and see inherent value in that exchange, the result feels positive for both sides. For these kinds of bi-directional relationships to thrive, core elements are vital for success – someone with a need, someone who can provide something of value that meets that need and a way for these groups or individuals to connect. In essence, we’re talking about a community of people – of all ages – eager to come together to share, learn from one another and grow together.
One way to kick start the growth of this ecosystem is to identify the pool of people we’d like to invite to join in. While there are lots of elements to consider in this journey, during our Youth Mentor Challenge we’re focusing specifically on reaching young people and tapping into their smarts, skills and experience to help older generations achieve their goals. Together, let’s dive into the passions and capabilities of young adults to understand who they are, what really matters to them and how to engage them in serving older adults. Over the course of our challenge, we’re eager to focus on few specific pieces of this equation:
- How might we employ fresh approaches to engaging young people?
- How do we show young people how much they can learn and grow by working with older adults?
- What goals/ needs/ wants do older adults have — and what opportunities are young adults well-poised to support using their capabilities and talents?
- How do we grow the pool of young adults who will engage with older adults, making this exchange possible?
What does it mean to win this challenge?
As with all OpenIDEO challenges, there are many reasons to participate and many things you’ll gain by participating in our Youth Mentor Challenge – regardless of whether your idea gets shortlisted. That said, the winning ideas will represent submissions that we feel best answer our central question, that excite and energise our community and that address our goals. In particular we’re looking for ideas that will inspire young people to lend their skills and experience to older adults outside of their peer group and that speak to the intrinsic value that this experience can bring to a young person’s life. As the challenge unfolds we’ll share more about these goals so you know where we’re headed.
No matter the end result, we encourage everyone to take your ideas forward on your own or to collaborate with your network to implement them. On OpenIDEO we strive to be a place where good ideas gain momentum – both from the community and from our sponsors and partners. For more information, visit our About Us or How It Works pages.
About Our Sponsor
AARP Foundation is working to win back opportunity for struggling Americans 50+ by being a force for change on the most serious issues they face today: housing, hunger, income and isolation. By coordinating responses to these issues on all four fronts at once, and supporting them with vigorous legal advocacy, the Foundation serves the unique needs of those 50+ while working with local organizations nationwide to reach more people, strengthen communities, work more efficiently and make resources go further. AARP Foundation is AARP’s affiliated charity.
About Mentor Up
Mentor Up is working with organizations and companies across the country to support programs that create new ways for younger and older generations to connect and help one another. Our partners are rooted in service and driven by social missions and include the 4-H, DoSomething.org, Generations United, The Intergenerational Center at Temple University, Magic Johnson Foundation and Facebook.
*Source: Pew Research Center