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An important role for older adults

Although education is an issue that involves people of all ages, it primarily affects children, youth, and young adults. If this your funding focus, it might not seem obvious that older adults can play an important role in the education equation. But they can. For example, with an estimated one-fourth of students aged 10 to 17 at serious risk of school failure, volunteer programs that use older adults, who have more time at their disposal, could provide the one-to-one attention these children need to succeed.

Experience Corps, a national initiative in 19 cities, mobilizes older adults to devote 15 hours per week to enhancing reading and writing skills of students in elementary schools. Older volunteers receive training and support, work in teams, and receive stipends. Research shows that not only do the children’s reading scores improve, but so does the health of the volunteers. With a focus on education, The Henry Niles Foundation made a $10,000 grant to Experience Corps to support its national implementation.

Intergenerational Bridges, a program of the Jewish Council on Aging® Heyman Interages Center in Montgomery County, Maryland, is an after-school mentoring program that pairs newly arrived immigrant children with supportive older adult mentors to assist with the transition to U.S. culture, language acquisition, and personal developments. The George Preston Marshall Foundation gave $5,000 to support this program.

You may find that issues of aging fit well with your higher education programs, as well.  Many older people thrive on education and seek opportunities for mental stimulation. Today, there are 250 institutes for learning in retirement at colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada, many funded by philanthropy. Project SHINE (Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders) trains students at 22 colleges and universities across the country to teach English to older immigrants and refugees, prepare them to become U.S. citizens, and help them to access health care services.


Possible funding areas

Here are just a few of the many funding areas in education that may include programs for or about older adults:

  • Tutoring one-to-one
  • Mentoring students
  • Teaching job skills and/or addressing school-to-work issues
  • After-school programs
  • Older classroom speakers with firsthand accounts of historical events or community history
  • Geriatrics and gerontology programs at institutions of higher learning, at every level from community colleges to medical and nursing schools
  • Community education programs in areas such as health for older adults

GIA Mentors

Grantmakers interested in starting a program area related to education or in expanding their funding in this area are invited to contact Grantmakers in Aging at 703-413-0413 or GIA’s Director of Programs and Membership, Maria Gonzales Jackson, and by phone at 703.413.0413 direct or 301.233.2867 cell, for a referral to an expert on staff at a grantmaking foundation who is willing to serve as a mentor to other grantmakers.

Source: Grantmakers In Aging December 2011


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