Older Adult Volunteers Help Battle Childhood Obesity

Catch program 1Local older adults have been busy this fall guiding elementary school age children through fun physical activities as well as the preparation of healthy snacks as part of VOICE, Volunteers Organized in Community Engagement, which launched this year.

VOICE is a program designed to harness the time and talents of older adults by providing meaningful volunteer opportunities within Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville.  The program, which received Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) funding earlier this year, is housed at the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning (RCLL) and includes many RCLL students as well as other local residents who are passionate about helping resolve significant community issues, such as childhood obesity.

In an effort to help local children become more active and eat healthier foods, the VOICE volunteers implemented CATCH Healthy Habits, an evidence-based curriculum created to address childhood obesity.  The national program trains older adult volunteers how to teach children about nutrition and physical activity.  The program is taught in a variety of settings to children in grades K-2 and 3-5.

VOICE has completed its first round of CATCH Healthy Habits classes which included seven weeks of after-school instruction at Brookshire Elementary School and eight weeks at the Winter Park Community Center.  Officials at both locations want to continue and expand the program.  Additional sites are planned for spring and summer, 2015.

Representatives of CATCH Healthy Habits recently held an information session to attract additional volunteers needed to expand the program.  The event drew approximately 20 people and most were very interested in participating.  When asked what they liked about CATCH, volunteer comments included having little kids in their lives; interacting with and building positive relationships with them, and meeting new people/peers. Currently, 17 of the original 20 CATCH Healthy Habits volunteers have committed to remain engaged in the program.

VOICE has also started a weekly radio show which airs on WPRK, the Rollins College radio station.  A Dialogue with VOICE is hosted by older adult volunteers and has covered topics of interest for adults age 50+; including falls prevention, aging in place, and movement for Parkinson’s.  A full array of subjects is planned for next year.  The show will highlight local volunteer opportunities of interest to older adults.

Finally, VOICE volunteers will be hosting a CarFit event at Rollins College on December 12, 2014.  CarFit is an educational program that offers older adults the opportunity to check how well their personal vehicles “fit” them.  It also provides information and materials on community-specific resources that could enhance their safety as drivers, and/or increase their mobility in the community.  Volunteers will undergo special training to become certified CarFit technicians prior to hosting the event.