McKnight’s Senior Living

This article was posted on ” McKnight’s Senior Living” .
Have you ever wondered, “What if I could use my talents, learned experience, unique skills and part of my time to help others?”
Everyone’s life experience is different. That’s what makes each of us unique. Yet all that experience, all that accumulated knowledge, all that real-life wisdom, may be dormant.
Would you or some of your colleagues be interested in working with older adults beyond the normal structure of the workday? Do you know residents who could share a tip or two with their peers? Mentoring as a form of companionship for older adults can provide the opportunity to help, support and improve the quality of their lives as well as to add purpose to the mentor’s life.
As those who work in senior living are well aware, being an older adult often comes with significant changes in one’s life. Some of these changes are positive and life-affirming, but others can be in the form of challenges to health, safety and quality of life.
Isolation and loneliness can lead to anxiety, depression, illness and vulnerability to abuse. Poor vision, weak leg muscles, and medications to treat hypertension, depression and insomnia can lead to injurious falls. A mentor could help, or in many instances prevent, such occurrences and also could informally assess someone’s living space for potential dangers.
Active older adults can be excellent mentors, benefiting from the experience themselves by trying something new to them or reducing their own loneliness.
Mentoring Anyone? II is a low-cost strategy designed to improve the health and well-being of older adults within a community. Researchers of the program have found that by joining the program, older adults (mentors or mentees) have experienced:
• Elevated self-esteem.
• Reduced feelings of isolation and loneliness.
• Improved physical and mental well-being.
A Mentoring Anyone? II program can enhance the vision of aging services providers, senior living communities and hospitals, requiring only a small budget for supplies and a part-time staff supervisor from a social service agency, who monitors the program to ensure that it complies with best practices and the goals of the program. Prospective mentors receive the training, resources and skills they need for optimum effectiveness with mentees.
“I have family, a granddaughter, who is very kind and I know tries her best to help me, because I partially lost mobility. When I was offered a mentor, however, I was so glad, because now I spend a special time with her just for me, and I know I am not imposing on her,” said an 84-year-old participant at a senior center in Englewood, NJ, where the program has been implemented over the past four years. “She accompanies me to the mall, the library, concerts. And when we went to the mall, I was able to choose, on my own, the things I needed. I did not have to wait for my family to pick them for me, perhaps not like them and not be able to express it so that I did not offend them.”
Another mentee, a grandmother in her late 70s caring for her three-year-old granddaughter, wanted a mentor but did not know what to expect at first. Two months into the experience, she came to the program to express her gratitude and thanks for her mentor.
“I am so glad I have this wonderful mentor,” she said. “She listens to what I say. She does not have to say too much, but those moments with her are so precious because I know someone listen and someone cares. I feel as if I have regained my power.”
Marcia Gongora, a social worker with more than 35 years of experience, is a program designer and author of the booklet “Mentoring Anyone? .” Contact her Link for more information about how to start a mentoring program for older adults or how to obtain the instructional booklet and package.

REVIEW by Adele M Holman DSW

REVIEW by Adele M Holman DSW
July 28, 2017

This review is being undertaken as a volunteer, in view of my experience and expertise in the field of community social work. I have an earned Doctorate in Social Welfare. I have taught social casework, social welfare and couple therapy as an Adjunct Associate Professor at Adelphi University, Lehman College and New York University. In addition, I have had a comprehensive family therapy practice.
I have undertaken this review in light of my enthusiasm for the accomplishments of the Mentoring Anyone? Program
The program, MENTORING ANYONE? Is unique and extraordinary in its scope. The booklet/training manual describes, in considerable detail, the various aspects of the program. The booklet is actually the curriculum for the program. It describes what mentoring entails with particular emphasis on the value of mentoring as it pertains to seniors. Since Mentoring is ordinarily not conceived of as applying to seniors; that is a particular feature of this program which demonstrates how very valuable and applicable it can be. The qualities of the mentors are emphasized, as well as, the goals and objectives of the program.
The process of matching the mentors and mentees is a vital consideration.

Clearly, the goal of the program is to reduce the social isolation, reduce the feelings of loneliness and improve the general well-being of the participants.

These examples of quotations from mentors and menthes are testimonials that reflect the meaningful way in which they have been affected.
A mentee wrote:
´The mentoring program has been a wonderful success for me…your placement with my mentor was perfect. We have more in common than I could ever have dreamed of.”

A mentor wrote: “I never realized how much of an impact I would have on my mentee until I heard what she expressed during a reunion of mentors and mentees. It made me feel useful and grateful that I had the opportunity to make another’s life better. Its provides a purpose in life”

A particular feature of this program is its cost effectiveness. There is a small budget for supplies. A part time supervisor meets with mentors assuring that the program meets its goals. The source of mentors are active senior citizens in the community, recent retirees as well, they have skills and time to willingly share with other seniors that are considered at risk within the community or at the Center were they attend. They are usually clients of the social service agency.
A 3 to 4 hour training is provided to all mentors as well as the booklet/curriculum before they are paired with mentees.
The supervisor of the program arrange interviews with potential mentors and mentees and once they are paired, monthly reports are sent to the supervisor to assure that the activities are achieving the goals. Examples of activities consist of: talking about hobbies, movies and other enjoyable pastimes such as making an album or scrapbook, sharing cultural traditions such as celebrations, helping to be sure that a home has no hazards for falls, practicing for a medical appointment, taking a favorite class together as yoga, jewelry making, etc. Sometimes just going for a cup of coffee to a nice place. Additionally, workshops focusing on health related issues, nutrition, and resources for the elderly are held. Typically Mentors and mentees would meet 2 or 3 times a month.
Every year and sometimes twice a year, focus groups are held for mentors and mentees as part of the ongoing evaluation process; surveys and interviews are frequently used as well. Some of the comments included: “Mentoring reminds one to be compassionate and a committed listener not only to the mentee but to others in their lives”.

The peer to peer model of the program has expanded to incorporate weekly gathering focusing on crafts (greeting cards making and jewelry). Making greeting cards for various occasions has generated enthusiasm and some small amounts of income. Also, a reading group has formed for those with limited vision who enjoy hearing books read aloud to them, followed by a discussion of what was read; this activity serves to enhance communication and brain stimulation.

One hundred thirty seniors have participated over a period of four years. Every year the program is evaluated to determine that it is meeting its goals. Due to limited funding sources the extent of the program is limited.

AARP reports that 11.8 million seniors live alone and approximately 5 million children are under the primary care of their grandparents. These are particularly challenging conditions when faced with economic, physical and mental health challenges. Aging in place may be an admirable concept when it is a choice. Unfortunately, for many seniors, it is a fact of life over which they have no control. Lack of mobility, fragile health, loneliness, responsibility for grandchildren are factors which impinge on a great many seniors.
Consequently, a program such as MENTORING ANYONE? Can have very wide application to bring valuable resources to seniors both mentors and mentees.
In view of the comprehensive and effective nature of the MENTORING ANYONE? Program, and the impressive scope and function of it, I strongly recommend that this program be recognized as a “promising practice or good idea.” This program appears to be unlike any other program for seniors. The creative use of mentors and mentees, offering each other inspiration, pleasures, camaraderie, and support is, I believe, different from any other program reported to be in existence in the United States.

Mentoring Anyone providing Parental Educational Workshops.

Mentoring Anyone’s creator, Marcia Gongora, provides Parent Educational workshops on the hot topic of “Mindfullness: Stress Management” Marcia discusses the many benefits and techniques of “Mindfulness and Meditation” to reduce stress and improve the Quality of Living. Participants walked away with the knowledge and skills to implement new stress reduction techniques.