The Power of Intergenerational Programs

WPL Nia Williams Sixta RiveraThe growing number of programs designed to engage both older adults and children is a testament to the power of intergenerational experiences. Intergenerational programs foster greater awareness of issues on both sides, strengthening solutions and creating opportunities for numerous personal and community benefits. According to Grantmakers in Aging, an organization dedicated to improving the experience of aging, some of the benefits seen in youth as a result of such programs include increased self-esteem and self-worth, improved behavior, improved reading scores, appreciation for older people and enhanced sense of belonging in their communities. Benefits reported by older adults include increased health, and in some cases, fewer falls, feeling less isolated and a greater sense of self-worth. More vibrant and cohesive communities are a result.

Two intergenerational programs —CATCH Healthy Habits and CyberSeniors 2.0 — are currently funded by the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) via grants made jointly through it Children and Youth Work Group and the Older Adults Work Group. Each program is an expansion of previously funded successful pilot programs in the communities of Eatonville, Maitland and Winter Park.

CATCH HH taste testCATCH Healthy Habits, in partnership with WPHF grantee, the Rollins Center for Lifelong Learning, pairs adult volunteers, 50 years and older, with students in Kindergarten – 2nd grade and 3rd – 5th grade, to teach them healthy habits including healthy foods to eat and the importance of physical activity. The program is a popular volunteer opportunity among seniors, an indication of how eager they are to connect with a younger generation and pass along important health lessons. In addition to children learning these valuable life lessons, the benefits for older adults participating in the CATCH program range from making wiser food choices to 30% of participants reporting they had increased their moderate levels of physical activity. The program boasts a high satisfaction rate among both groups, and often the relationships between the older adult and student last well beyond the program. CATCH Healthy Habits is currently offering after-school programs at Brookshire Elementary, the Winter Park Community Center and the Joe R. Lee Boys & Girls Club in Eatonville. Expansion efforts are underway for the Fall semester, and will include a fee-for-service after-school model that will help the program achieve long term sustainability.

Have you ever become frustrated by new technology? Wonder why you can’t figure out your new iPhone? With rapidly changing technology, it’s bound to happen. CyberSeniors, implemented by WPHF Grantee, Voices for Community Impact (VCI), aims to help seniors navigate the world of technology, and, in the process, open up their world to grandchildren, family, friends and learning opportunities. CyberSeniors, also based on a national intergenerational model, pairs teenagers in high school and college with older adults who are eager to learn about technology. During each eight-week session, the teens take seniors through such lessons as an introduction to computer hardware, Internet browsing including Google searches, Internet terminology, safety tips and social media sites (Facebook, Skype, YouTube). As Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director — Older Adults stated, the pairings of teens and older adults has been “magical” with bonds extending well beyond the program. During a recent Saturday session at the Winter Park Library, one senior learned to Skype for the first time and labeled the experience as “groundbreaking.” Another senior learned to text message and sent his first text to his wife. In addition to the Saturday session at the Winter Park Library, a Wednesday sessions was also held at the Jewish Community Center. Additional sessions are scheduled through September for the Winter Park Library, the Winter Park Community Center and Orange Technical College in Winter Park. Sessions spanning from October to December are in the works.

WPL Adriana Angulo Skype Cesar Ramirez 2Delilah Rivera, Special Programs Coordinator, summed CyberSeniors up best by stating – “As the Special Programs Coordinator for VCI Cyber-Seniors, I see the impact the young mentors are having on the older adult participants. The mentors are not only showing our participants how to use the computer, but give them hope and the skills they need to reconnect with their community, friends, and most of all their family.”

For more information on the Winter Park Health Foundation’s intergenerational programming, please contact Ms. Silvey — DSilvey@wphf.org or (407) 644-2300.