By Rebecca Hunt, Communications Intern
A close relationship between a grandchild and grandparent has many benefits. With their wealth of experience in life, grandparents have a chance to be great role models and influencers. And without the stresses of day-to-day parenthood, they can enjoy a relationship with their grandchildren that is in many ways a form of mentorship - one based on directly sharing those experiences with those who are just getting started in life.
Of course, not everyone is so close to their grandparents. For Doug, his personal experience with his grandmother was the driver to create something that could showcase the value older adults can offer to everyone.
Doug recognized that seniors can offer valuable life experience and knowledge to younger generations, and they can feel the benefits of volunteering by making a difference in someone's life. He saw a need to connect the Elder community (those older than 60) with younger generations who could benefit from an empathetic advice-giving cyber-grandparent with experience and wisdom.
"This was a classic 'see a need and fill it' situation," he recounts - and Elder Wisdom Circle (EWC) was founded in 2001 in San Francisco to do just that.
EWC provides free and confidential advice from elder volunteers on a broad range of topics. Through the service, online advice seekers from all over the world get paired with a network of Elders who share their knowledge, insight and wisdom. The majority of advice seekers range in age from teenage adolescents to thirty-somethings, but people of any age can request help and receive a personalized response.
It goes without saying that Elders need to be tech-savvy - the so-called "Silver Surfers" between 60 and 100 who are taking advantage of the Internet in advanced years to solve problems and lead a richer life. In fact, EWC now has almost 600 volunteers and the organization has received over 200,000 requests for advice - a big reason it's now one of the most popular advice services on the Web.
EWC is a win-win organization and Elder volunteers benefit as much as the younger people who receive the advice.
For Elders, their role often gives them a sense of purpose in retirement which they might otherwise lack. "I've heard from Elders who bounce back from a serious illness just so they can help others," Doug explains. As one volunteer said, "I now have a reason to live, to help and to serve."
For advice seekers, the benefits are obvious. As Doug recalls, the EWC team was surprised recently to receive an email from a couple on a honeymoon in Hawaii. The couple had asked for help with their dating relationship, and by following that advice had resolved their issues and were now married.
What does Doug enjoy most about his work? "Connecting people and then hearing the positive feedback from the young advice-seekers and the Elders. Creating inclusion for Elder volunteers who may be frail or have other limitations to volunteering," he says. "If you can do an activity where all parties walk away happy you truly have something special."