In a way, it's the older persons' version of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America -- the program that matches up single-parented kids with role models from the community who visit and spend time with them. Most Big Brothers/Sisters report that they wind up getting as much out of the program as the child they are intending to help.
Now fast forward to our aging population: Not everyone who lives in a retirement community gets visitors -- or at least enough visitors. Enter the idea of the "Adopt-a-Grandparent" program, which pairs up an elderly person with a college student or teenager in the community who will visit and spend time with them.
Many faith-based groups run programs and some high schools even offer school credit when students visit nursing home residents. At Central Michigan University, a program was started 10 years ago that now has 22 CMU students visiting people who live in one of four assisted living facilities nearby. According to Alyssa Newman, the graduate student in charge of the Adopt-A-Grandparent program, students commit to spending one hour a week with their "adopted grandparents" but several wind up visiting for four or five hours a week. No class credit is offered, Newman said, adding that students do it because they appreciate the interaction.
"We see it as a co-mentoring program. They have a relationship that is mutually beneficial," Newman told The Huffington Post.
"It is really about forming a family bond," Elizabeth Morgan, Adopt-A-Grandparent student coordinator, told the Central Michigan Life campus publication. "We call them co-mentors (because) they learn from each other."
Students in Adopt-A-Grandparent have mandatory training once a month, which includes lectures given by professors with experience or research with older populations. Do you know of any great programs benefiting older people? Let us know in comments.