Friday, March 14, 2014

Looking Back Part 3

Itta Bena, Mississippi
And the countdown continues. We’re less than two weeks away from honoring the 2014 Best Intergenerational Community Award winners: The Greater Phoenix Region, Arizona; City of Parkland, Florida; Reston, Virginia and Village of Shorewood, Wisconsin.

These four winners are examples of communities across America that are developing innovative practices, programs and policies to solve challenges that benefit people of all ages.

Intergenerational communities thrive because they build strong, supportive communities with fresh solutions to challenges that help people of all ages. They advance policies and practices that both acknowledge and promote intergenerational interdependence.

Last week, we highlighted a few past winners from 2012 and 2013. The week before that, we featured our inaugural winners from 2012. In the weeks leading up to our March 25 event, we’ll continue sharing our past winners’ stories. This is the final part of this series that shows why age-intentional strategies are important.

Introducing…Itta Bena, Mississippi; Montgomery County, Maryland and Westchester County, New York (2013 winners).

Montgomery County, Maryland
Despite having just under 2,000 residents, Itta Bena, Mississippi has an outsize vision for its future. The tiny town, located in west central Mississippi, believes it can create “a healthy, thriving college town with positive and deep connections, trust and collaboration among Itta Bena residents of all ages and among Mississippi Valley State University.”

And based on the evidence of the past few years, achieving that vision should be a slam dunk.  

Intergenerational connections have always been an important element of Itta Bena’s culture. In 2009, the community ramped up its intergenerational efforts when it joined the National Network of Communities for All Ages, an initiative of The Intergenerational Center at Temple University.

In so doing, the community formalized its commitment to achieving a better way of life for people of every age.

Thinking intergenerationally may be old hat to Montgomery County, Maryland, but nothing about its intergenerational programs and initiatives are old or outdated. This is a community where new ideas and ways to integrate the generations are continually being sought and implemented.

It’s been 30 years since the county executive formed the Intergenerational Committee to advocate and plan for a system in which older adults and younger generations could enhance each other’s lives.

Montgomery County, Maryland
That committee led to the formation of the Montgomery County Intergenerational Resource Center, a partnership that included the Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services, Montgomery County Public Schools, and Interages, a nonprofit.

This was the first time in Montgomery County history that a nonprofit, the public schools and county government joined together to make a difference in the community.

And what a difference such collaboration has made.

Today, this highly diverse county of almost one million residents offers myriad ways for all generations to connect with each other.

Take it from the horse’s mouth: Westchester County, New York is a good place to grow up and grow older … together. Whether you live in the county’s rural northern section or its big-city southern region, you’re sure to feel at home, no matter what your age.

This community really knows the value of intergenerational living; they’ve been at it for quite a while now – more than 16 years. It also is a master at bringing groups together to continually find new ways to improve life for all. 

Westchester, New York
Westchester boasts more than 40 intergenerational programs – shared site, individual on-site, and four Communities for All Ages based on the model developed by The Intergenerational Center at Temple University.

With its strong public/private network of motivated individuals, not-for-profits, United Way, a private foundation, and government funders, it’s no wonder that Westchester stands out as a model for how to enhance collaboration across sectors, build leadership of civic engagement of all ages, increase social cohesion among the generations, and address a broad range of critical concerns from a lifespan perspective.

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