May 2, 2015

Reverse Mentoring - Across the Generations

I've seen it on adventure outings, on Rite of Passage weekend experiences, at a cookout, and in school circles. Everyone is looking down the road of their life and on the lookout for a little guidance. It's a good bet that someone who has travelled the path ahead of you will be the carrier of some helpful wisdom. If you gather males in a pack with a mix of ages, creating a multi-generational male tribe, the right things happen. Boys, teenagers, young men, men, and the elders all have something to learn from each other. In fact, any time caring people connect across the generations a lot of very good things happen.

. . . reverse mentoring,
with youth bearing considerable gifts for the elders.

Recently, I came across an unusual twist on the idea of connecting across the generations. You could think of it as reverse mentoring with youth bearing considerable gifts for the elders. The program is called Cyber-Seniors - Connecting Generations. In their workshops, techno-savvy young people are partnered with a techno-impaired older person, and the exchanges are hilarious, heart-warming, and good for everyone involved.

Here is a short clip about the program taken from their award winning documentary film. You have to love grandma saying, ". . . can you explain a bit about this face . . . something and having to be a friend?"

If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

What I really like about this program is how, over the course of the private training by the young person, a lot of important things are shared. Of course, there are all the techno-how to's, but I almost think that's the lesser of the gifts. How about the many elder stories shared, or a young person's esteem boosted as the "teacher." You can see the joy of discovery as the elder students discover the digital world and develop their skills. I know mutual caring was expressed, maybe in techno-patience by the young people. I'm just as certain elder blessings were poured out on the youngsters. In a world where so many family members are distant, a little grandparent/grand kid energy mingled can be a very good thing. And all that's just for starters, and it happens naturally!

Can you think of a way to help our young people connect across the generations? It doesn't have to be a "program." Any organizing principle, from a tire changing class, cooking something, a fishing expedition, building something with tools, or any excuse really is fine. Gather a multi-generational group with some kind of central focus and then just stand back and watch it work. And no, you don't even have to be "friends" to get started!

If you like the Cyber-Seniors idea and want to learn more about their offerings, visit their website. You can learn how to have the full documentary brought to a location near you.

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1 comment:

  1. Cool, Earl! This understanding is part of our intergenerational work with Kairos Alive! (, once including a group of young men from the Minnesota Red Wing Correctional Facility in a year-long dance theater residency with elders, where the men were admired for taking artistic and emotional risks while they admired the elders for their life experiences. Also, part of the coaching work I do with couples ( The indigenous scholar Dr. Malidoma Somé once said in remarks at a Minneapolis presentation, 'Inside every elder is a young spirit and inside every young person is an old wise one; the job of each is to turn each other inside out."


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