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Mentoring: lend a guiding hand

12 July 2017 ( 18 February 2020 )

More and more older people are becoming mentors, helping younger people to make the best of their lives and finding a new sense of purpose in return.

Gracie Wright with her mentor Eleanor Bannister © Lydia Evans / Saga Magazine
Gracie Wright with her mentor Eleanor Bannister © Lydia Evans / Saga Magazine

Anyone who has reached the age of 50 is likely to have some considerable insights about life to share. Mentoring is a great way of offering other people the benefit of this experience.

From offering advice to new entrepreneurs to helping disadvantaged young people make a start in life, there are many opportunities for you to help.

Not sure you could become a mentor? Read about other ways to help charities without donating money.

Here are some of your options:

Business mentoring

Advice from someone who has worked in a particular industry or set up their own company can be invaluable to a new business.

There are a number of organisations which can help match your skills and experience to the appropriate enterprises. is a service which allows businesses to look for local mentors with relevant experience. It also offers advice on how to become a mentor, and gives details of training organisations – you are likely to need some formal training before you can link up with a company.

PRIME, the Prince's Initiative for Mature Enterprise, is an organisation which encourages the over-50s to set up in business.

Social mentoring

Some charities offer the chance to mentor people who are from disadvantaged backgrounds, for example, or who are older and live on their own.

CSV is a volunteering and social action charity: it has a Retired and Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP) aimed at encouraging the over-50s to give up some of their time to share their skills, knowledge and experience.

CSV also has a mentoring and befriending programme, which can involve helping school children with reading or maths, or giving advice to offenders when they leave prison.

Find out about donating money to charity through your payroll.

Do you have what it takes to be a mentor?

Our five-point checklist below will help you decide:

Do you think like a grandparent? You’re not there to rant when your mentee makes a mistake; rather your role is to listen and digest. You need to be a facilitator, assisting the mentee to make their own choices.

Patience is essential. ‘Some of the young men we meet don’t trust anyone,’ says John Shepherd, CEO of Trailblazers, a national charity set up to mentor young offenders. ‘Building up that all-important bond of trust can take a long time.’

You need to be committed. In many cases, you could be meeting your mentee once a week (sessions usually last an hour) for a year – or perhaps longer. And, before that, there’s training. At Grandmentors, for instance, potential mentors are put through a two-day course – other schemes’ training may last one to three days.

For most schemes you don’t need to worry too much about your academic qualifications. What’s more important is life experience: a solid understanding of how the world works, and how people work. For the likes of The Prince’s Trust Enterprise programme a background in business and/or enterprise is a must.

A decent level of computer literacy is more than useful. Many job and college applications are now done online and may even involve a webcam interview. And if you’re interested in business mentoring, you’ll need to be social media-savvy; a great deal of modern commerce is conducted via Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like.

Other mentoring projects

TimeBank is another volunteering charity which has partnerships with a number of projects to supply mentors.

These include Talking Together, a project helping long-term UK residents learn English in the Midlands; Carers Together, which offers support to carers in person or online; and Shoulder to Shoulder, a project aimed at providing guidance and support to ex-services personnel who are suffering from mental health problems.

TimeBank provides training to its volunteer mentors before they are assigned to projects.

The charity can also help you find projects to volunteer for based on where you live.

Grandmentors For more on joining the scheme, go to or call 020 3780 5870

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations is the umbrella organisation for more than 12,500 projects around the country. For its mentoring and befriending section, go to and click on Member network, then on Find a project for opportunities in your area

Get a new sense of purpose in retirement


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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