CATCH Healthy Habits, the intergenerational program launched by the Winter Park Health Foundation in partnership with the Rollins College Center for Lifelong Learning, is aimed at increasing physical activity and nutrition education in both older adults and children/youth. The program wrapped up a successful Spring series and is gearing up for the Fall. Pairing adults, age 50+ with youth from several after-school programs serving children from Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville, the CATCH Healthy Habits program reports a 100% satisfaction rate among the older adult volunteers and 97% of the children in grades 3–5 stated they liked learning about health.
According to the Pew Research Center, in 2014 60.6 million people – nearly 20% of people living in the United States – lived in multi-generational homes. With this growing population trend and new dynamic being experienced in communities across the country, programs that provide opportunities to learn from one another are becoming increasingly important as new generations seek to understand and connect. CATCH Healthy Habits is a great example of connecting generations around the importance of physical activity and healthy eating for a lifetime. Both children and adults, and the communities they live in, benefit from intergenerational programming. According to Grantmakers in Aging, a professional organization dedicated to improving the experience of aging by serving as a catalyst for philanthropy, children experience an increase in self-esteem, improved behavior and test scores along with an enhanced sense of belonging to their communities; while older adults benefit through improved health including fewer falls, increased connectedness and less isolation as they age.
A total of 27 children and 29 adult volunteers participated in the Spring class series held at three sites – Brookshire Elementary School, the Winter Park Community Center and the Joe R. Lee Boys & Girls Club in Eatonville. Evaluation results demonstrated positive results among both children and older adult volunteers.
Of the children (program participants) surveyed from grades 3–5:
97% of the children:
- Liked learning about health
- Recalled and thought about lessons learned outside of class
90% of the children:
- Learned new things about health
- Enjoyed having the older adult teach the games and lessons
- Made healthier choices at home since starting the program
- Thought the program helped the volunteer teacher make healthier choices
- Recommend this program to friends
84% of the children would like to participate again
80% of the children looked forward to coming to this program
73% of the children talked about things learned in this class with family
Of the 29 older adults (volunteer teachers) surveyed:
100% satisfaction rate
96% of the volunteers:
- Enjoyed interacting with the other volunteers
- Felt they had taught the children important skills
- Felt respected by the child participants
- Felt appreciated for their volunteer service
92% of the volunteers felt they had learned new skills
89% of the volunteers:
- Formed new social relationships
- Learned more about the community in which they volunteered
- Had a renewed sense of purpose
84% of the volunteers became more physically active
83% improved their diet
In July, the volunteer team at the Boys & Girls Club in Eatonville received recognition as a nominee for the Heart of Florida United Way Community Volunteer Service Excellence Award for its role in teaching the children about healthy habits. The team’s nomination was spotlighted on the CATCH Healthy Habits national Facebook page. Program Coordinator Holly Tanyhill commented, “With the support of Winter Park Health Foundation, we have been fortunate to work with some amazing volunteers. Their enthusiasm has inspired the children to absorb the lessons, learning healthy habits that will last a lifetime.”
Up next for CATCH Healthy Habits is piloting a fee-for-service after school program at several elementary schools. The fee-for-service model is being explored as a way to build financial sustainability into the program so it is less dependent on fundraising and grant support.