Monday, February 02, 2015

Greater Richmond Region, Virginia - 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Award-winner

After 12 years of living abroad, Sara Link and her husband moved back to Greater Richmond Region to be near her parents and childhood friends in 2010.

With the community’s commitment of connecting people across generations, Link is convinced her family made the right decision.

With over 40 local intergenerational programs, festivals, events and leisure activities bringing together its 1 million-plus residents of all ages, it’s obvious Greater Richmond Region thrives off meaningful connections between older adults and youth.

With all ages being an integral and valued part of the setting, they couldn’t wait to share their community pride by applying for the 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Awards.

“I knew Richmond had a strong chance of winning,” said Sara Link, director of Greater Richmond Age Wave, a collaborative that includes philanthropists, local government, businesses, nonprofits and academia working together to maximize resources for all ages.

Link’s Age Wave manages CATCH Healthy Habits, a Generations United 2015 Program of Distinction re-designee that was first honored in 2012.

Through this evidence-based program – hosted by Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging and Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Gerontology – older adult volunteers teach K-5 students the value of healthy eating and physical activity.

Programs like CATCH Healthy Habits stem from Greater Richmond Region’s intergenerational roots, which go back to 1984, when Westminster Canterbury Richmond became an intergenerational shared site after including a Child Development Center with its Continuing Care Retirement Community.

Today, Westminster Canterbury Richmond’s intergenerational programs bring together children and older adults for daily story time and annual events/performances.

A community jewel is the James River Park System, 600 protected acres of shoreline and river islands running through the community.

The River System functions as an outdoor classroom for all ages to learn and appreciate Greater Richmond Region’s history while enjoying mountain biking, fishing and kayaking.

Youth and older adults also engage through the YMCA of Greater Richmond’s Growing Younger program, an initiative of United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg (GRP) in partnership with Friendship Cafes.

“Elders in this program are actively engaged in physical exercise and projects with youth, as well as the arts,” said Lynn H. Pharr, United Way-GRP chief executive officer. 

In addition to funding from United Way-GRP, Greater Richmond Region’s intergenerational programs receive nearly $1 million in combined support from by county and city governments as well as public and private foundations.

As a mentor in the Richmond Area Foster 

Grandparent Program, Doris Hairston sees first-hand how those investments contribute to the community’s intergenerational success stories. 

She and nearly 70 other older adults serve as mentors, tutors and caregivers for Greater Richmond Region’s children and youth with special needs.

“Many of the children served throughout the history of our successful program,” Hairston explained, “are now contributing adults themselves.”

The Greater Richmond Region is still feeling the excitement from a Generations United announcement that they are a 2015 Best Intergenerational Communities Award-winner.

“We will continue celebrating with Chesterfield County and the City of Richmond as we present a flag and road sign to each locality to have on display,” said Sara Link, who shared the news with various media outlets and through social media.

Sadie Rubin, director of the intergenerational arts program PALETTE, hopes the award will attract new funding.

Sara Morris, coordinator of CATCH Healthy Habits and Greater Richmond Age Wave, is still ecstatic about the award.

“It will help break down barriers people may have about other generations,” she said. “It will foster [more] community collaboration and innovative thinking that is cross generational.”

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