How Nesta supports inter-generational connections

At Nesta, we back a variety of organisations which support inter-generational relationship-building in various ways, including the Second Half Fund, Accelerating ideas and Good Help. This includes fantastic organisations like The Cares Family, Goodgym and Grandmentors.

On International Older People’s Day we wanted to celebrate how these organisations are helping people connect, share insights and experiences, create friendships and support each other across generations. In this blog, Karen shares her experience of becoming a Grandmentor when she retired from her role as a head teacher. Grandmentors is a group of volunteers aged 50+ who give their time to mentor and build relationships with young people who are care leavers.


I heard about Grandmentors through the local business community. There is a business breakfast club that meets locally in Ipswich, and the Ipswich project officer on Grandmentors, Dionne, had made contact with the group. Through that, the group heard her presentation about the programme, and I was really inspired by it.

I recently retired from education where I was a head teacher, which means I have a lot of experience working in schools, the social care sector and children’s centres, looking after a range of age groups. This influenced my decision to become a Grandmentor, because I know the benefit and impact that a little bit of guidance can have; it can go a long way.

I’ve only been volunteering as a Grandmentor for a short amount of time, but my mentee and I have already started to build a relationship

Just seeing everything from her turning up on time to our meetings and making eye contact, to being enthusiastic about what she’s going to do next is hugely rewarding! My mentee gave me two options she wants to explore – one was about working in the catering industry, and one was working with animals. Once we started mind mapping all the different possibilities of what that might look like, it was huge, but in our upcoming meetings we will take these one at a time and consider the options in manageable steps.

Being a Grandmentor is about making quality time, and from my point of view it’s making sure that I’m offering something that I can really commit to. Factors have to be considered like family pressures etc, but I spoke to the team early on to make sure I could commit properly to the right young person. You’ve got to have an open mind-set.

From my point of view, I get a lot out of it and I’ve also gone from working a full 50 hours a week job into retirement, so it’s nice to have something to keep your professional brain alive! For my mentee, I’d like to think that she can look back on this experience in the future and say that it’s actually given her the confidence to make decisions herself.

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