The Magic of Mentoring (January is National Mentoring Month) 

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By Michele D. Baker 

Is There a Real Need for Mentors? 

According to Mentoring.org, one-third of today’s youth lack mentors. Meanwhile, countless senior adults are isolated, lonely and in need of companionship. What do you get when you combine the two? Profound opportunities for healthier, happier kids, seniors, and communities! 

What is Mentoring Month? 

Established in 2002, National Mentoring Month is a campaign dedicated to recognizing mentoring and the impact it can have. Whether it’s developing employees, supporting young people, or inspiring and preparing college students, mentoring enables people to unleash their full potential by learning from others. It’s also a time to celebrate the power of mentoring and encourage volunteer service.  

Although we celebrate Mentoring Month throughout January, some days are even more special: January 7 is “I am a Mentor Day;” January 17 is “International Mentoring Day;” and January 21 is “Thank Your Mentor Day.” 

A Study Proving Mentorship Works 

 An abundance of research indicates that young people derive many positive effects from participating in mentoring relationships. A study of nearly 1,000 youth at Big Brothers Big Sisters showed that kids with mentors are not only significantly less likely to use illegal drugs and alcohol, skip school, and get into physical fights, but they are also more confident about academics and social relationships. 

What’s In It for the Seniors? 

Any adult can be a mentor, but seniors are particularly positioned to make unique contributions. Not only do they have plenty of wisdom and experience to share, but their potential is often underutilized. Mentorship puts these untapped resources to good use. 

Factor in that seniors are living longer, are healthier than ever before, and growing in number, and they become the perfect candidates for filling key mentorship roles within their own communities. And it works: the attention, guidance, and support of seniors has been proven to help at-risk kids become more aware, self-confident and capable people. 

Related: Mixing Ages Makes Magic

Older adults can also derive fulfillment as well as a sense of value and purpose which is often otherwise lacking in the senior years. This mentoring relationship can also help with depression and loneliness and improve the overall quality of life for seniors.  

 Today’s kids face many challenges, and too often are forced to try to navigate these obstacles alone. Today’s seniors, meanwhile, have faced many of those challenges and overcome them, and yet have no means through which to share their experiences. Mentoring offers the perfect opportunity for the young person and an older adult to connect and benefit in unique ways. Not only do kids gain access to the support they need, but seniors also thrive when given the chance to make a difference. 

Ready to Start Mentoring? 

Here’s where to get started mentoring in southwest Florida: Area Agency on Aging of Southwest Florida; Senior Corps Foster Grandparents Program; United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades; 100 Black Men SWFL; SCORE Southwest Florida; or Big Brothers Big Sisters (Tampa Bay or Suncoast chapters).