TODAY   |  October 06, 2013

Senior citizens mentoring young students

A program called Senior Corps is showing some of the 60 million Americans age 55 and older that you’re never too old to go back to school. The program places foster grandparents in schools, helping kids in more ways than one. NBC’s Rehema Ellis reports.

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>>> 60 million americans age 55 and older. and so we start off this week talking about a program and a school that's showing older folks, it's never too late to go back to class. here's rehema ellis.

>> see what she is doing.

>> reporter: she is 69 years old and retired. but four days a week, phyllis pricer goes back to school to teach young children.

>> here, baby cake.

>> reporter: pricer is part of the senior corps foster grandparent program in washington, d.c.

>> we experienced a great deal, and we can teach others.

>> reporter: she is one of a group of 30,000 volunteers age 55 and older who mentor more than 100,000 children a year nationwide. and the instruction goes beyond the abcs of colors and construction paper . does grandma help you learn how to be nice to each other?

>> yeah.

>> yes?

>> reporter: 104-year-old virginia mcforest is a foster grandparent too. and she says it's not just academic. kids need to learn social graces in school, as well. you're also teaching them respect.

>> yes. you've got to do that sometime in education. old mcdonald

>> reporter: research shows this style of teaching is also having a big impact on test scores.

>> the data tells us that children who are touched by foster grandparents have a higher education achievement level.

>> reporter: in fact, one study administered by the corporation for national and community service show that 92% of mentored children in southern kentucky improved their math and reading comprehension in a single year. and it's not just the kids who benefit. older americans who volunteer report lower levels of depression. increased brain activity and lower mortality rates. and it's true for 59-year-old tony woods , a retired construction worker.

>> sure, i know something, but i'm the one that's learning from them.

>> it gives me a feeling of a generation. it's sometimes hard to explain.

>> reporter: children and grandparents moving together that learning never gets old. for "today," rehema ellis, nbc news, washington.

>> that's a great program. that's going to do it for us on this sunday morning. thanks for being with us.