The Power of Mentorship: Seniors Lead the Way at The Commons

RAMP celebrates its third year of pairing residents with associates to learn new skills
resident and associates posing together
April '24

The Lincoln Squirrel, an online source for news, features, photos and events about Lincoln, Massachusetts, recently featured The Commons’ resident associate mentor program.  Read the full article on The Lincoln Squirrel website or continue reading below:

Retirement Offers Seniors Opportunity to Mentor

Retirement offers almost endless possibilities for how to spend one’s time—travel, golf, a new or renewed hobby — but seniors like resident Elaine Smith and other residents at The Commons are busy helping those who help them, through a successful mentoring program.

Last month, The Commons hosted a special luncheon to celebrate the culmination of the 2023 Resident Associate Mentoring Program (RAMP), highlighting the dedication of seniors and associates who actively contribute to the community through their involvement in the program which began in 2021. Over the course of its three-year tenure, RAMP has facilitated mentorship opportunities for up to 40 residents, who have generously shared their expertise with an equivalent number of associates within our senior living community.

Resident Associate Mentoring Program

Resident Elaine Smith is the founding member of RAMP, where residents with skills, experience and time, are paired with our senior living community associates who are in need of mentorship. Often, the associates work with resident mentors on English as a second language, but they offer other types of help as well.

RAMP is a voluntary program, but associates are compensated for the work time they spend in their classes. An associate’s supervisor will direct them to the mentoring program if they are seeking assistance, at which point they’ll meet one on one with a mentor.

Residents Have A Lot to Give

Smith and others started the program via FaceTime in 2021 during the pandemic and later switched to in-person sessions. “When I looked around, I could see there were a lot of [residents] who were quite intelligent and had various expertise in the work world and otherwise. There were people who had a lot to give,” she said of her fellow residents. When they went to the head of Human Resources, “they were very much in favor of what we wanted to do.”

Supervisor Improves English and Leadership Skills

One supervisor who’s recognized the benefits of associate enrollment in RAMP is David Aviles, the campus plant operations director. An associate for whom David has seen positive outcomes for is Marcia Alves Xavier de Souza, the lead housekeeper of Assisted Living, Memory Care and Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing. Marcia has worked here since May 2021 and was promoted to supervisor after only six months. As a housekeeping leader, she must be able to both run an efficient team and advocate for herself and her colleagues and speaking English more fluently allows her to meet those goals. Marcia and her ESL resident mentor have worked together in hour-long structured lessons that include homework.

De Souza’s first language is Portuguese; she understands English but is still learning to speak it more conversationally. She and her resident mentor have been working on her English speaking and writing skills for the past several months. “My teacher is very patient with me and every Tuesday and Thursday I have my class,” she said. She’s also getting extra practice by sharing and strengthening her skills at home and in her church.

New Hires are Excited About the Program

Aviles has seen great improvement in de Souza’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,” he 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’re all excited about this program,” he said.

RAMP Offers Various Types of Assistance

While many associates enroll in RAMP to improve their English, mentors also help in other areas including legal forms, personal finance and even piano lessons. In one case, RAMP helped a woman navigate the complex legal process required to become the guardian of her niece who was visiting from another country. Another associate recently earned their American citizenship thanks in part to help from RAMP.

“It felt like one of my kids had gotten into college — I was so happy,” said Smith, a retired Wellesley College chemistry professor.

A Tremendous Feeling of Satisfaction

Residents, associates and our community all benefit from RAMP. “It’s an example of how they feel about what’s being done for them,” she said as she displayed a heartfelt thank-you note from one associate. “You get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction in knowing that you’re helping someone who needs the help.”

Resident George Carlisle (center) with Associates Steven Bwesige (left) and Guilherme Costa Ferreira (right).

Beyond the mutual satisfaction that participants receive, there are health benefits to mentoring. According to a 2020 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, for individuals over 50, volunteering for about two hours a week is associated with reduced mortality risk, decreased physical functioning limitations, increased physical activity and numerous positive psychosocial outcomes.

Our mentoring program not only exemplifies the profound impact of intergenerational knowledge sharing and community support but also underscores the invaluable health and psychosocial benefits that mentoring brings to all involved.

Learn more about The Commons.