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Intergenerational mentoring

Evidence Rating

Expert Opinion

Health Factors

Intergenerational mentoring programs establish a relationship between an older adult and an at-risk child or adolescent. Intergenerational mentoring programs can be based in schools, community centers, or faith-based organizations.

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased self-esteem

  • Improved health outcomes

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Reduced isolation

  • Increased academic achievement

  • Reduced delinquent behavior

  • Improved social emotional skills

Evidence of Effectiveness

Intergenerational mentoring is a suggested strategy to increase mentors’ sense of self-worth, accomplishment, and well-being (YG-Mentoring, CDC-Thornton 2002, SCL 2016, PIRE-Thompson 2014). Older adults who participate in intergenerational mentoring programs become part of a network of volunteers and develop meaningful relationships with their mentee(s) (YG-Mentoring). Available evidence suggests that intergenerational mentoring can also improve social connectedness, physical and mental health, functioning, and self-esteem for mentors (PIRE-Thompson 2014, ). However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Intergenerational mentoring can improve participating youth’s attitudes toward aging and older adults, increase academic achievement and social development, and decrease substance use and school absences (PIRE-Thompson 2014). Overall, mentoring programs increase positive educational outcomes for participants (Campbell-Wilson 2011) and appear to reduce delinquent behavior for youth at risk of delinquency (Campbell-Tolan 2013, ).  

Successful intergenerational mentoring relationships involve matching individual mentor’s strengths and resources with the needs of potential mentees, incorporating youths’ perspective, and supporting youth-driven interactions (SCL 2016, PIRE-Thompson 2014). Older adults’ life experience and emotional stability prepare them well to advise at-risk youth (SCL 2016, PIRE-Thompson 2014).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Many intergenerational mentoring programs exist across the country. For example, Across Ages, which started in Philadelphia, PA and now has over 50 sites, Experience Corps, which is in sixteen states and Washington DC, and Intergenerational Bridges in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington DC (HFRP 2012, SAMHSA-NREPP, AARP-Experience Corps, JCA-Interages programs). 

Implementation Resources

MENTOR - MENTOR. Expanding the world of quality mentoring.

MENTOR 2016 - MENTOR. Elements of effective practice for mentoring. Alexandria: MENTOR/National Mentoring Partnership; 2016.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Glass 2004* - Glass TA, Freedman M, Carlson MC, et al. Experience corps: Design of an intergenerational program to boost social capital and promote the health of an aging society. Journal of Urban Health. 2004;81(1):94-105.

Campbell-Wilson 2011 - Wilson SJ, Tanner-Smith EE, Lipsey MW, Steinka-Fry KT, Morrison J. Dropout prevention and intervention programs: Effects on school completion and dropout among school-aged children and youth: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2011:8.

Campbell-Tolan 2013 - Tolan P, Henry D, Schoeny M, et al. Mentoring interventions to affect juvenile delinquency and associated problems: A systematic review. Campbell Systematic Reviews. 2013:9.

CDC-Thornton 2002 - Thornton TN. Strategies to prevent youth violence: Social-cognitive strategy. In Chapter 2 of: Craft CA, Dahlberg LL, Lynch BS, Baer K, eds. Best practices of youth violence prevention: A sourcebook for community action. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 2002:119-207.

YG-Mentoring - Youth.gov (YG), Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs (IWGYP). Mentoring: Benefits for young people.

PIRE-Thompson 2014 - Thompson KT, PIRE team. Intergenerational mentoring and the benefits of mentoring for older adults. Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation (PIRE) Louisville Center: 2014.

SCL 2016 - Stanford Center on Longevity (SCL), Encore.org, David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Hidden in plain sight: How intergenerational relationships can transform our future. Stanford Center on Longevity: 2016.

DuBois 2011* - DuBois DL, Portillo N, Rhodes JE, Silverthorn N, Valentine JC. How effective are mentoring programs for youth? A systematic assessment of the evidence. Psychological Science Public Interest. 2011;12(2):57-91.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

SAMHSA-NREPP - SAMHSA's National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices (NREPP).

HFRP 2012 - Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP). A profile of the evaluation of across ages program: Program description.

AARP-Experience Corps - American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). AARP Experience Corps.

JCA-Interages programs - Jewish Council for the Aging of Greater Washington (JCA). Interages programs.

Date Last Updated

Sep 29, 2016