Lending a Helping Hand: Retirees Turned Mentors
Retirement offers almost endless possibilities for how to spend one’s time—travel, golf, a new or renewed hobby—but seniors like Elaine Smith and many fellow community members at The Commons in Lincoln, continuing care retirement community (CCRC), in Lincoln, Mass., are busy helping those who help them. Elaine is the founding member of RAMP, the Resident Associate Mentoring Program, where residents with skills, experience and time are paired with The Commons’ associates who are in need of mentorship. Often, the employees work with resident mentors on English as a second language (ESL) material. The program also offers guidance to those associates who may need help filling legal forms or other tailored assistance. Elaine referred to RAMP as a “win-win situation.”
RAMP is a voluntary program, but associates are paid for the work time they spend in their classes. An associate’s supervisor will direct them to RAMP when and if they are seeking assistance, at which point they’ll meet one-on-one with their mentor. One supervisor who has recognized the benefits of associate enrollment in RAMP is David Aviles, the campus plant operations director. An associate that David has seen positive outcomes for is Marcia Alves Xavier de Souza, the lead housekeeper of assisted living, memory care and skilled nursing.
Marcia has worked at The Commons since May, 2021 and was promoted to supervisor after only six months. As a housekeeping leader in the community, Marcia must be able to both run an efficient team and advocate for herself and her colleagues. Speaking English more fluently allows Marcia to meet those goals. Marcia and her ESL resident mentor have worked together in hour-long lessons that have structure and include homework. The resident mentors put their full effort into their lesson plans so that the associates can get the biggest possible benefit from them.
Marcia’s first language is Portuguese and she and her resident mentor have been working on her English speaking and writing skills for the past six months. “My teacher is very patient with me and every Tuesday and Thursday I have my class,” Marcia said. She understands English but is still learning to speak it more conversationally. She’s also getting extra practice by sharing and strengthening her skills at home and in her church.
David has seen great improvement in Marcia’s comprehension and use of English and he understands the value that the program holds for someone in her role. “She is a very important part of the Plant Operations team. She has about nine to 10 employees under her that follow her direction,” David said. In fact, he feels enrollment in the program should be a required part of training for new associates who need assistance. “We have about five new hires and they are all excited about this program.”
While many associates enroll in RAMP to help with their English skills, Elaine says the mentors can help in many ways. In one case, RAMP offered guidance to an associate who was navigating the complex legal process required to become the guardian of her niece who was visiting from another country.
Elaine is a champion of the program and as the founding member, she holds it very close to her heart. Presenting a heartfelt thank you note from one associate, she beams, “It’s an example of how these associates feel about what is being done for them,” adding, “you get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you’re helping someone who needs the help.”