Thursday, May 29, 2014

Meet Adam Otto - Generations United Summer Intern

Adam Otto
How many young adults today learned how to play bridge or heard insider details of World War II? 

I have because of the time I’ve spent with older adults.

That’s what makes my interest in intergenerational issues personal.

I lived with my grandparents for about 15 years, and they were very involved in my life before that. Because of this, I know firsthand some of the difficulties that grandfamilies face.

My grandmother is a strong advocate for kinship care issues. In the past, I worked with her local Relatives as Parents Program group, where I learned about various policy issues.

Now, I’m a 24 year old graduate of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV.

I’m also an intern at Generations United. Most of my work here will focus on grandfamilies and be research and policy related.

During my time here, I’ve enjoyed attending meetings on topics ranging from neighborhood revitalization initiatives to child hunger program reforms.

In June, I’ll also be working on “Raising Caregiver Voices,” an advocacy training session that will help form a “grandnetwork” in addition to training a new generation of advocates.

I’ll also take part in the release of the joint advocacy agenda, Advocates for Families First, in collaboration with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the North American Council on Adoptable Children, and the National Foster Parents Association to be held at the Capitol Visitor Center on June 18.

My interests span beyond kinship care policies to intergenerational collaboration.

Since I grew up around older adults, not only am I aware of senior issues, but I also feel my time around them really enriched my life and gave me experiences unique to the typical young adult.

Many seniors are eager to share their years of knowledge and experience.

There is also a lot the youth can offer seniors. A youth’s vitality and enthusiasm can be invigorating for an older adult.

For several years, I spent time with a feisty woman in her 90s. I ran various errands and tasks that she couldn’t do alone.

Even though she has since passed on, I’ll cherish our friendship for the rest of my life and make use of what she taught me. 

I’m excited to be working at Generations United, helping to advocate for intergenerational issues, giving back to the people who helped me along the way.

Meet Tomesha Thompson - Generations United Summer Intern

Tomesha Thompson with her grandfather
The past three years I worked as a Camp Counselor and Supervisor at the YMCA, I saw firsthand how intergenerational work brought the generations together.

I saw it through the Zumba classes the elders facilitated for the youth. Watching young and old together sparked my initial interest.

I couldn’t pass up a chance to be a summer intern with Generations United.

All the way from Richmond, Virginia, I’m a student at George Mason University, where I’m studying Community Health with a concentration in Nutrition.

This summer, I’m helping Generations United expand and showcase their Youth Jumpstart Grantees’ work. I’ll also be using social media to get our partners and friends interested in our initiatives like Grandparents Day in September.

I also look forward to highlighting your cool intergenerational ideas on this blog.

I am so excited to be interning with Generations United! I love the idea of youth and older adults working together to "break the silos" and learn from each other.

This is also personal for me.

My grandmother, who prefers fresh foods and cooks everything from scratch, gave me a better appreciation and understanding of food and wellness, which is why I’m studying Nutrition.

In turn, I show her how to search for recipes online as an option to her worn cookbooks with pages falling from the binding.

Moments like these reinforce our emotional support for each other. Generations United says it best, "Because we are stronger together". 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Speaking Exchange

Esther Barker, a resident of Chicago's Windsor Park Retirement Home,
speaks with her teen partner, a student in Brazil learning English.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, we’ll feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs.

In part five of our series, we feature the Speaking Exchange, a project of the Brazilian school of English CNA and the agency CFB Brazil. (Read parts one, two, three and four.)

“Not all of our students have the chance to travel abroad and to interact with native speakers of English,” Vanessa Valença, a pedagogical coordinator at the CNA English School, said in a promotional video.

So the school, which operates 580 language centers in Brazil, created an educational project that would connect young people with America’s older adults over the Internet.

A Windsor Park Retirement Home resident and a Brazilian teen
exchange virtual hugs. 
The Speaking Exchange, currently in its trial period, conducts twice-weekly video chats between a small group of students and residents of Chicago’s Windsor Park Retirement Community.

The Speaking Exchange’s promotional video shows young and old sharing virtual hugs, an elder claiming her teen partner as her “new granddaughter,” and a young boy inviting his older partner to visit Brazil and stay at his parents’ house.

For both generations, it’s a win-win. It gives students learning English a way of meeting people with stories to tell, while allowing the elderly to feel active and make new friendships.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Why not tweet them to #cooligideas, post them to our Facebook Group, Intergenerational Connections (if you're a Youth Jumpstart Grantee, share your ideas in that Facebook group) or text us through Facebook's Messenger app (friend me to join our Cool Intergenerational Ideas group discussion)? We want to highlight innovative age-optimized programs and practices through our blog, social media and weekly e-newsletter!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Lynnwood Senior Center

(PHOTO: Lynnwood Today)
EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week, we’ll feature intergenerational program ideas that were tried and successful. This new series is a tool to highlight various age-optimized programs and practices. The program descriptions are provided by representatives of the programs. Inclusion in this series does not imply Generations United’s endorsement or recommendation, but rather encourages ideas to inspire other programs. 

In part four of our series, we feature Lynnwood Senior Center, of Lynnwood, WA. (Read parts one, two and three)

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 20 volunteers aged 18 and younger worked side-by-side with 17 Lynnwood Senior Center volunteers, building raised beds for a community garden.

Participants, aged 4 to 90 years old, constructed 30 garden boxes intended to offer opportunities for intergenerational pairs of gardeners to grow food together.

Twenty-five garden boxes built four feet square and 36 inches tall are set up in a large rectangle with five one-foot high raised beds in the middle.

The outer boxes are waist-high, allowing access for people with knee problems or personal scooters, while also offering an easy arm's length reach to the middle of the garden box.

The inner boxes’ assignments are currently to a preschool and a Boy Scout troop growing food for the local food bank.

The goal of this project, located adjacent to the Lynnwood Senior Center, is to improve wellness, foster intergenerational interaction, increase access to fresh produce for older adults, and provide a much needed service to the larger community.

It is Lynnwood's first community garden.

An 80 year-old man showed a 16 year-old girl how to use a power tool. Our youth have so much to learn from older adults—and older adults have so much to give.

Many older adults lose their gardens through downsizing or stop working in them due to health issues, so it was important to make the community garden fit the users.

This summer, an abundance of beautiful organic food was grown by senior gardeners, in partnership with people of all ages.

Got something cool you tried that was successful? Then here's your chance to get on our blog and get promoted through our social media and weekly e-newsletter! We want to hear from you.