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Mutual Mentorship

It's a structured interview process using a computer to benefit elder skills and youngsters knowledge.

Photo of Susan DeMersseman
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How would you describe your idea in one sentence?

Elders learn about computers and youngsters learn about LIFE.
Mutual Mentorship
The idea I’m suggesting is for a matching of elders and young people who share what each has to offer in a structured way.
The structure is an interview done using the computer that allows the youngster to teach or collaborate with an elder in completing the questions on the interview. In the process the youngster could teach the elder about the computer and the elder could teach the youngster about Life.
 The first phase is the development of the interview. It will eventually be the blending of what youngsters think they’d like to learn form elders and what elders want to share with youngsters. Examples of questions may be, “What do you remember that you did as a young person that you are still proud of?” “What was the dumbest thing you ever did that turned out to be wise?” “What do you wish you had understood when you were young?
In addition to the philosophical questions would be basic life history ones and the summary of these would form an outline for a memoir or document for the elder’s family. Story Corp might also want to participate, in that they have a good questioning format and are eager to document stories. If desired, the life story part could also be coded to allow for further study by historians or researchers, e.g. “Navy Nurse in WWII” or “ attended a one room school house”, or “grew up on Nantucket.”
A possible outcome would be some computer skills for the elders, perhaps a little more motivated as the process is about them and yields a document that they can share.
An additional outcome is the collection of personal histories that might add to future research as well a document for family. Where appropriate these stories could also be shared at community readings.
The structure of the interview could allow for the youngsters to collaborate on what they found on individual questions. For example all could get together in the real world or virtually, look at the varied answers to a specific question and gather insights for their own lives. Their insights too could be shared in a structured way with peers.
The possible outcomes could be elders with better computer skills, the joy of being listened to and a document to keep and share with family. The youngsters will gain patience, the joy of sharing their knowledge and some insights beyond their own limited experiences. It could be a blending of the real and virtual, the old and new and a true “mutual mentorship.”
In addition to AARP participation by organizations such as Story Corps and the Buck Foundation might be possible.

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to test any assumptions you might have about your idea?

I'm writing interview outlines for family members to use in doing video oral histories of older relatives.

What aspects of your idea could benefit from the input, skills or know-how of our OpenIDEO community?

The community might have members who could recruit and train computer-interviewer young people. Others could work with senior centers and organizations to set up the interviews.


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Hi Susan,

Good Idea, but where would you conduct the Interviews & how would you organize it.

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