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‘Mentoring Up’ Activities are Empowering Youth and Adults

By Edna Kane-Williams, Vice President, Multicultural Markets, AARP

‘Mentoring Up’ Activities are Empowering Youth and Adults
By Edna Kane-Williams, Vice President, Multicultural Markets, AARP


So often we think of mentoring as something that an older person does for a younger person. But, increasingly around the country, older Americans are finding great value in receiving the services of younger generations for their knowledge of digital and social media, the internet and even their energy to serve the hungry.

When younger Americans commit to serving older generations, everyone wins. That’s because you have the knowledge that they need.

One example of this recently played out between the NAACP Youth and College Division and NAACP adult branches, which are typically run by older, seasoned civil rights stalwarts. Youth and College Director Sammie Dow, 27, enjoys telling what happened:

“Our adult units were running civic engagement programs, which is a staple of the NAACP. And as they were running voter registration drives, our young people were showing them how they can do that more efficiently and – in a more exciting manner – digitally. And so, we saw our young people creating videos, we saw them creating memes, we saw them hosting Twitter town halls, we saw them really engaged in Instagram to show, ‘Hey, this is also a viable tool for engaging people and voting.’ And I think that a combination of our young people and the innovative work that they did digitally in conjunction with some of the more traditional NAACP civic engagement and get-out-to-vote efforts enacted one of the largest civic engagement efforts that the NAACP has run in decades. It’s been an amazing and exciting process to watch unfold!”

AARP is both encouraging and helping to facilitate this new trend called, “mentoring up”. When adults willing to learn connect with youth who are willing to teach and serve, entire households and communities across the nation can benefit. offers special tips on how young people can become a digital coach, teach Facebook safety or even hold a food drive to help someone who is older and who would benefit from the wisdom or service. Part of the goal is to fill the educational voids that are often created by a fast-moving digital world and could result in a better quality of life for all involved. 

The AARP Foundation has commissioned research that found that 32 million Americans aged 50 and older struggle with either hunger, housing, isolation, or income. Many aren’t able to live off of their current paychecks due to insufficient incomes because of low skills and lack of job training.

By holding a food drive, you could help the nearly 9 million people ages 50+, who are at risk for hunger put nutritious meals on their tables. Teaching Facebook safety could help an older person know how to maintain privacy on their Facebook page. By becoming a digital coach, you could help people learn how to use the internet and social media in order to make new connections – even find more job opportunities.

For more information on ways to “mentor up”, go to because as part of the younger generation, “you have what they need.”

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