Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mentoring Older Adult Brings Unique Challenges & Rewards

Some stories just tell themselves…like the story of Byron and David, mentor and mentee. When asked to describe their mentoring relationship, David spoke of Byron’s genuineness. “Byron’s been incredibly sensitive and responsive,” says David.

David and Byron’s mentoring relationship is unique on many levels. David, a 62-yr-old retired physician, is not your stereotypical homeless person. He’s neatly dressed (always), meticulously groomed and often uses words that need to be looked up in a medical dictionary for comprehension.  David’s nearly three- year stint with homelessness was a result of a litany of health issues; not until David moved into his new apartment has his health started to rebound. Byron has been a part of his stellar return to health.

Mentoring an older adult has its own dynamics as Byron has visited David in the hospital, in rehabilitation centers and has accompanied him to various doctor appointments. Byron, a retired Eli Lilly employee, is happy to do so. “I’ve been very blessed. I’ve always felt a desire to help others.”  Byron retired early in life in order to enjoy travel, spend time with family (he’s a new grandfather) as well as give back through volunteerism. “What I like about Trusted Mentors…more than other things I do (as a volunteer is that) this is more personal.” Byron speaks of how appreciative David always is and how watching him progress with his health has kept him motivated to mentor. In the midst of walking together down this path towards health, the two have visibly built a close bond.

David got connected to Byron, his Trusted Mentor, through HIP (Homeless Initiative Program).  There, his social worker Lillian, assisted David with finding stable housing. David had the insight that he would need strong relationship connections in order to assist him with maintaining stability and meeting his goals of becoming healthy and whole again.  “Where I live, there’s nobody there that I can talk to like I talk to Byron. We talk about everything—sports, politics…” (Byron grins and mentions that he doesn’t even discuss politics with his wife). “We always find something to talk about.”  

As we parted ways, Byron and David were mapping out a plan to help David gain more strength and mobility, to include working out at the YMCA and walking on local trails once the weather improves. Byron retold his rendition of the star fish story to David—“if all of us did one thing to help out another, the world would be a better place.” David finishes his cup of coffee and you can see the gratitude written on his face.