Rollins to Create Community Service Program for Older Adults

senior volunteer teaching sportLocal older adults–many members of the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning (RCLL)–will have the chance to help meet community needs by participating in a unique Rollins’ educational and service program called Volunteers Organized in Community Engagement Project (VOICE).

The Hamilton Holt School at Rollins College is establishing the program designed to make use of the special talents of the 600 members of its RCLL program with support from a new $148,268 grant from the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF).

RCLL was established in 2013, with grant support from the WPHF.  The program offers non-credit courses to older adult residents of Winter Park, Maitland, Eatonville and surrounding communities.

Many RCLL students have expressed an interest in becoming engaged in local volunteer opportunities. Consistent with Rollins’ commitment to community engagement, the VOICE Project was developed to harness the untapped energy and experience of these older adult volunteers by recruiting them to address community issues.  Potential issues for engagement include making communities more age-friendly, reducing health disparities, addressing food insecurity among community residents, and mentoring children.

Initially, VOICE will focus on reducing the incidence of childhood obesity in Winter Park and surrounding communities by replicating CATCH Healthy Habits, a highly successful older adult volunteer service program. Relying on the curriculum and program activities of CATCH Healthy Habits, VOICE will recruit RCLL and community volunteers to be trained in teaching healthy eating habits and fitness activities to children age six to 11.  The after-school lessons include nutrition education, a healthy snack and 30 minutes of physical activity.

CATCH Healthy Habits is an evidence-based program successfully implemented in 19 cities in 15 states.  Data collected in 2013, indicated older adult volunteers in CATCH Healthy Habits benefited from the program along with the children. Both age groups reported increased consumption of fruits and vegetables and decreased screen time. Nearly all (96%) of the older adults report enjoying the program and close to 90% stay committed to the program by continuing their volunteer service in CATCH Healthy Habits.

The grant will fund a full-time coordinator who will recruit and train older adult volunteers in CATCH Healthy Habits. Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director, and Debbie Watson, WPHF Vice President, will work with the VOICE coordinator to identify which local sites will implement the volunteer program which is new to Florida. The first group of volunteers will receive training in July.

“We are excited about continuing our partnership with Rollins College by providing adults 50 and older with ways they can use their talents and experiences to address important social concerns and thereby strengthen community life,” said Ms. Silvey.  “CATCH Healthy Habits is an award-winning program that will jump start the VOICE Project by benefitting volunteers and school-age students, making it an excellent win/win opportunity.  We hope it is the first of many successful contributions made by VOICE. ”

Click here for more information on the VOICE Project or courses offered by the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning.

Click here for more information about the CATCH Healthy Habits program.