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Together with AARP Foundation and Mentor Up, we’re asking the global OpenIDEO community to learn about and design ways for youth age 15-24 to harness their talents, know-how and energies to amplify a positive shift in ageing and make a difference in the lives of older adults. What role might young people play helping older adults connect to community? What contribution could young people bring to people aged 50+ looking to re-enter the workforce? What tools, programs, incentives or campaigns might empower young people to see themselves as mentors, capable of enhancing the lives of older adults?

Setting the Stage
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?
To learn more about the conversation we hope to have, check out our Guiding Principles for this challenge.
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,, Generations United, The Intergenerational Center at Temple University, Magic Johnson Foundation and Facebook. 

*Source: Pew Research Center


  Meena Kadri

This challenge is now over.
215 contributions
113 ideas
113 final ideas
20 final ideas
20 final ideas


Join the conversation:

Photo of Walsh Bob

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Photo of Wai Yee Tang

very good and brilliant idea!

Photo of Donji YD

Hello all! How do I update the impact phase?

Photo of Andrei Didyk

Travel !!! You know, a lot of people after 50 are dream about traveling... dream about adventure!!! but some of them are afraid... they afraid a new place, that do not understand a language, some rules of foreign countries, some technical issue, moving around the city, rent a car, shopping.... And I guess, that to realize a dream... the old people needing a some young people who can accompany them to travel, a young man who can be a translator, guide, driver, doctor and a good talker :-))) !!!
I think it's a chance for young people to discover new opportunities, to meet new people, travel, practice in languages..... And for old people to feel a free for travel and open yourself up to adventure, new emotions and life !!!

Photo of Rashel Cordova

I really love this challenge topic, but joined the Open Ideo network too late to contribute any ideas. However, I discovered this amazing post on LinkedIn today that made me think of this challenge, and wanted to share it:
It's a "Bring In Your Parents Day" created by LinkedIn - a creative flip on the "Bring Your Kids to Work Day". It seems like a cool spin-off to this Youth Mentor Challenge and inspired from the same place of connecting youth and older generations for mutual benefit and understanding. Hope others are inspired to participate!

Photo of Kanika Singal

A very interesting challenge. I can personally see it. I am 30 and my father in his 70. About 10 years back, i taught him computers. He then taught it to my mother. When i moved to the US, he was the one who would write me emails.

At a veterans home at Napa, where i used to volunteer, my 90 year old friend Hank used to run a geek squad. He would come there with is son, who was an apple geek, and teach his friends how to get better at computers.

The point of these two live examples- empower the savvy digital folks in the 50+ segment to peer-teach.

Photo of Author Miranda

Also, the elderly have MUCH to offer young people. It could be a two-way street.
Please share my Kickstarter campaign & support me if you can! Thanks!
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Photo of brahmari vatrapu

Great job Open Ideo and AARP. The challenge really needs to be taken seriously and the youth should mentor elder people. For many of us the only communication with parents is through skype or phone calls . There are miles away from us. But before moving abroad for my higher education i thought my dad to use emails and skype . Thanks to him , that he was passionate enough to learn and remember everything. Things look a lot easier and better with the technology

Photo of Author Miranda

It would be best if the seniors mentored the youth. Seniors have much to offer young people & would be more likely to come to us if we are offering them something.
Please share my Kickstarter campaign & support me if you can! Thanks!
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Photo of Author Miranda

I would like to help people read books that may be difficult to understand. With 20 years experience teaching, I believe I am very qualified.
Please share my Kickstarter campaign & support me if you can! Thanks!
You are not donating $$! You are buying a product ahead of time. Your support will pay for editing, book cover & e-publishing.

Photo of Glen Robinson

Well done Open Ideo and AARP. It is common to hear about the older generations mentoring the youth to pass on their knowledge, skills, experiences, avoid the same mistakes etc etc, but not as common to see this in reverse. I can see some real benefits in this, particularly when it comes to technology. In terms of my age, I am almost right in the middle of the "20 something grew up with technology and know of nothing else" generation and the "over 50 what the hell is facebook" generation. I have seen my older relatives who have lost their spouses/partners as they have grown old, struggling to cope with living alone and in isolation, learn to use email, facebook, smartphones, etc as a way of staying connected with their extended families and friends. It can have an incredible impact on their psychosocial well being. Further, as the aging population grows, and it becomes more difficult for older people to physically access the community, technology and connectivity will be key. This is where younger people can assist the over 50's to remain engaged through a mentoring program. What's more, the young people involved might just learn a thing or two as well!

Photo of Sebastian Hayto

I love this challenge! I think it is crucial to consider the wants of our aging population before anything else as they are far more prone to ignoring innovation for the sake of habit. As a 20-something recent grad, I'm always trying to teach my dad how to use the shortcuts on his macbook, but he only ever listens and learns when it involves something he's genuinely interested in - like wine. If my dad heard of a workshop on how to organize his wine cellar using software available on his mac, he would have a reason to learn how to interact with his computer far more intimately. If he heard of a workshop that simply offered a tutorial of how to use all macbook shortcuts, he would go golfing. Because younger people are so much more open minded, I believe they would be much more willing to participate in a session on using technology to organize a wine cellar than a 60-something person would be in a session on using keyboard shortcuts in world of warcraft.

Photo of Jacqueline Morgan

Seek first to understand.
#1 WHO is "youth vs. young people" Make sure you know your audience
#2 WHAT do AARP members need? What do "youth" need?
# 3 WHERE will they engage with each other - how can we create meaningful and relevant channels of communication between the groups that work for all parties involved?
#4 WHY mentor? What's in it for Me? ( answer the question for them; make sure both audience segments have been defined with a clear "value" in mind. what are they going to get & give each other)
#5 WHEN can they meet? inside structured meetings/organizations? in person?

And then remember, unfortunately " one size does not fit all". Look for opportunities to build small and incremental successes between the groups. One might be in mid size community center in small urban center, another might leverage existing 4H and Everwise organizations. Still, you might find opportunities to connect through "meals on wheels" - evaluate the existing eco system support both ages and identify gaps and where leverage might exist....

then experiment... quickly but cautiously. Execute rapidly and iterate change as you build competency and knowledge about what works, what sound great and what is extra terrible

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

I think this is an incredibly meaningful and worthwhile project. Thank you to the AARP for sponsoring it. Discoveries made here will have the potential to enrich many!

Photo of Karan Gopalani

Truly agree when you say that Bettina. It would be interesting to see the involvement of both the elders and the youngsters as it would definitely signify the overarching importance of this initiative by AARP.

Photo of Carlie Hanson

Awesome idea!

A few weeks ago I was attending an art exhibit hosted by youths that displayed youths' challenges in Philadelphia. Long story short: a senior citizen from a local retirement home walked in the gallery (she was on her daily afternoon stroll) and was completely amazed by these youths' stories and proceeded to connect with many of the youth artists. It was an incredible experience to see the creation of intergenerational connections through youths' socially focused artwork.

It would be interesting to create a local venue where these groups can connect in their communities. I think one of the hardest parts may be getting youth enrolled and continuously engaged. It may be worthwhile to looking into established youth programs and build a senior citizen service component into it. For example, there are many youth programs in Philadelphia that have a steady inflow of youths (YouthBuild, YESPhilly, E3 Centers, Mural Arts, etc.). It would be interesting to connect local senior citizen groups with these programs with curriculum focused around the needs of senior citizens.

Excited to see what comes next!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Carlie and Karan!
I love your suggestion Carlie that seniors come to the youth! I always think of youth going "to meet" the seniors but this twist has great possibilities for the reasons you mention - engaging the youth might be difficult at first and also to sustain. So many possibilities to think about going forward.

Photo of An Old Friend

I've always noticed that aged people coming to youth asking help or support, not the other way around. Youngsters don't ask aged people for morals despite the fact that youths know aged are experienced. The only reason is that youth consider aged people are not in their pace. When I was doing my high school, my grandfather used to come to me as ask how to operate computer. I tell him how to turn on and do something. It took long time to understand and do it on his own. As he had no other work, learning how to operate computer was a fun for him. He approached me, I've never approached him for any support or help... It is really important for youngsters to understand aged people's situation.

Photo of Pâmella Brum

Completely agree Bettina!! What a great initiative, it will surely generate some great ideas that can hopefully be beneficial to both older and younger adults!

Photo of Guy Viner

Bettina- agreed! I'm wondering if you have any ideas or examples on how this 'twist' might materialize? Or any suggestions on how we can prototype it or bake it into any future ideas? Thanks!!

Photo of Bettina Fliegel

Hi Guy et al. I haven't had much time to read the research posts on the challenge yet. I plan to though. I have the start of an idea in my head. How about you?

Photo of Erin O'Brien

This is a great idea for a challenge, and I love that it seems to 'reverse' the typical direction of mentorship.

I have two examples where I've seen this kind of cross-generational mentoring work.

1. My local council set up a "youth mentoring seniors in computer skills" program over a series of weeks. I think it was run at the local library (or maybe through a school, I can't remember). I read about it in the newspaper, and I recall that both the seniors and the youth found it very useful.

I think for this to work, there needs to be clear boundaries around time commitment -- a short, intensive spurt of interaction would appeal more to the youth (say 4 consecutive weeks) rather than an open-ended, ongoing arrangement. Having a curriculum set out would also be helpful, so the youth don't need to reinvent the wheel.

2. Another example recently went viral: Students in Brazil being paired with retirees in the USA for English classes. This is a perfect example of the synergy that happens when a mentoring situation can be mutually beneficial.

(Every time I watch this video, I cry -- it is such an elegant solution to two complementary needs):

NB: Both these examples involve retirees, rather than people in their 50s seeking work, but I still feel that the examples give something concrete to work with and discuss :)

Photo of Guy Viner

Hi Erin- Thanks so much for adding these examples! I found some research supporting your claim that organizing interactions in short, intensive spurts is indeed effective:

Organizational Behavior Professor Adam Grant demonstrated through his research that givers who concentrated their giving instead of dispersing it throughout the week felt much happier at the end of experiments. He calls this "chunking" instead of "sprinkling" giving. I think you're on to something! The idea of organizing giving into intense periods could be something extremely helpful for participants in the ideation phase of this challenge.

For more insights from his research, see

Photo of elizabeth wilkinson

Great challenge. I will write from my own experience as I am over 50 (JUST !) and looking to relaunch my career in sustainable innovation. YES - I can learn lots from young people and I agree with the last post - it is best done in an informal way. The question is HOW to create these situations (workplaces ideally) where everyone respects and learns from others in a perfectly natural way. Do young people need to be more self aware . . . . how young is young ? My 9 year old son is learning to code in school (a whole new generation in the UK) , thus making himself more 'employable' than either his 13 or 17 year old brother. The latter have not been brought up with this skill set, but with a different and equally valuable one. The world is changing SO FAST - as I have exemplified, even the so called 'young' are being out-dated before they even leave school ! If we all accept and embrace this fact, suddenly we are all in the same boat, young and old. Moving forwards from this position might prove fruitful ?

Photo of Luke Hannan

Perhaps we can look to China, who will be facing this problem in the next 5 years as opposed to 2035, and whose population make up ~15% of the globe? I

Might be a

Photo of Erin O'Brien

That's a very good point, Luke!

Photo of An Old Friend

I think you have to start with first understanding natural mentoring, those moments, relationships, and contexts that bring about a natural spark and connection between people of different ages in different cultures. Mentoring is best when it is organic, happens naturally, through the flow of relationships in one's life. Setting up formal mentoring can risk lacking the depth and engagement of those more spontaneous, flow-of-life connections. I think the first step in to set up ethnographically oriented field projects in different cultures that look for natural mentoring relationships and that will observe and participate in those to learn what the natural spark is for people of different ages to connect. Once that is understood, turn these observations into actionable recommendations for several pilot mentoring programs and test drive them.

Photo of nanni kaka

But the project I've ever done it is not like this project, but I think 2035 is a bit far.

Photo of Waqas Zaheer

Overall, I think that this mentoring and the challenge should focus on providing youth skills they can use to earn a living. While I agree that art, poetry and other stuff is cool, but one important fact that it needs artistic skills. I will contribute and take part in this challenge and my suggestions will not be esoteric stuff, but something youths can use.

Photo of Carson Xi

The thing now a days is that art is becoming one of biggest skills one needs to "earn a living". Where are in an age where the only careers that prosper doesnt have to be a doctor, or a carpenter, or a seamstress. We have machines to replace those things. What we need are minds that can come up with ways to make these machines more than machines. We need to integrate technology and beauty and the only way we can do that is art. Kids these days need to spark their creativity. And people these days need to stop thinking that the only jobs that will provide a living are doctors, lawyers, and "skilled" workers. Although this is true, this is no longer the only way of life.

Photo of Waqas Zaheer

Nice idea, older people have a huge experience that fades away and needs to be harnessed. However, the problem is that the younger generation are not interested in physical work or in taking up job oriented work such as carpentry, plumbing, electrical work, etc. They want to only work with computers, listen to music, work in a McDonalds outlet at a McJob and not fit themselves for a long lasting career.

Photo of Telusila Motuliki

This is a brilliant idea. It will be difficult for a your person to mentor an older person. To overcome that understanding from our human mind, I am sure it can be done through grand parents working with grandchildren. A lot of children, they get on well with grandparents than parents. Using this opportunity, you may develop competition between 2 grandfathers, each partners with his own grandson, work together to complete projects like, build a cupboard, or grandfather showing the grandson a particular job that he was good at when he was young and this can be applied to grandmothers and grand daughters. Another idea that can be promoted, for every business, grand parents may be allowed to work with their grand children. Why don't grandparents be mentors for their your generation.

Business people these days may develop plans to accommodate elderly people that are still healthy to work. I have one lady at my work place who is 67 years old and she is still happily working.

Photo of Caroline Bailey

Great challenge. What if the AARP went into school systems with dynamic, older generation speakers who could introduce the program concept and perhaps work with high schools to build it into the array of extracurricular or possibly curricular choices for students to pursue? It reaches a broad spectrum of students and I think embedding it in a school setting will legitimize it and assure some influential adult (teacher) encouragement. Additionally, schools generally have computer labs so some of the digital coaching could happen in a neutral setting as both sides of a mentorship get to know each other.

Photo of Patrick Anucha

The issue of young mentoring the old involves transfer of skill and knowledge. However the feasibility of this venture involves creating of motivational forces and environment to the aged through an organized and concerted effort by the youth. In the past all effort and campaign has all been on the youth or young.The youth or the young shall with the passage of time in years and age grow old as well. As he gets old the youth in his own time must have developed or been involved in a system which may seem alien to the aged as humans are agents creation and dynamic in nature. How then might the aged be integrated into the modernization of the changing world and system evolved by the youth? This seems to be an endless loop. But with the integration of a culture from the youth to the aged, 50+ better understanding and society will be created.

Photo of Apiyo Oweka-Laboke

I have worked with youth mentoring projects for over 5 years now but not this reverse model so i am super excited to see what comes out of this.

Photo of Zach Guan

Hi Ruiwen,

You've got a daring and fresh idea there I got to say. However, i think it needs to be further developed a bit as it seems that it doesn't address problems related to implementation and cultural influence.

Photo of Ruiwen Xuan

In my opinion, it'd be very difficult, if not completely impractical, for two individuals with background, age, personal traits, experience and very likely points of views that differ significantly from the other's to form a student-mentor relationship if they did not even know each other.

In this regard, a website that serves as a platform to publicise strength and needs could be a tricky catalyst for finally bridging up teens and elders. Members of the website are welcome to showcase what they do best and express their interests in what they want. For instance, many old accomplished citizens might seek for help in getting used to a digital world while young people could aspire after advices on career choice, and these two groups of people could from a two-way mentorship. In this way, a prospect of the mentorship is assumed to be granted, which provides as an incentive in encouraging people to participate in this program.

There could be ethical concerns that by setting up a system like that, the program could downgrade to an interest exchange platform. As a matter of fact, it is morally justified as it is a kind of communication that is set up by mutual consents and there is no real benefit being traded. However, it is essential to reinforce the notion of mutual aid to ensure that people receive sincere and genuine help from givers. This might be guaranteed by keeping a record of feedback and producing ratings accordingly.

Photo of Karan Gopalani

I think "How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship?" not only taps on the issue of helping elders adapt and grow, but also can act as a mean to reduce the generation gap that creates a lot of differences between the two/three generations. It requires time on behalf of the youngsters and patience and understanding from the older people to get thru even a normal two minute conversation with a smile. Hence, a very strong and important theme this from OpenIdeo and AARP Foundation. Congratulations!

Photo of My Hanh Tran

How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship? How might we bridge generation gap between young and old? Will lesser degree of authority (from the old) and more of empathy (from the young) help? Young & old can be friends. They close the gap by appreciating each other differences and listen to each other point of views. I remembered when I was a kid, Mum & Dad used to 'explain why' I should / should not do certain things, not 'tell what' I must / must not do. As I grew up as a teenager, two-way conversations were encouraged as we had our family dinner. Element of trust is very important. Rigid authority and the unwillingness to share will only set people apart. Meaningful theme AARP & OpenIDEO!


The thought of making a theme "How might we inspire and engage young people to support older adults through mentorship? " for involving OpenIDEO Community to converse and come out with various tools and ideas, to strenghthen and bridge the gap between Young & Older, is laudable one. For this, I congradulate both the OpenIDEO & AARP Foundation