More and more, park and recreation professionals and their agencies nationwide are offering intergenerational activities (activities that include both youth and older adults), whether virtually or in person. NRPA’s programs like Commit to Health and Healthy Aging in Parks recommend bringing together community members of all ages to have fun while focusing on health and well-being. Wellness knowledge transfer from older adults to youth, and from youth to older adults (yes, the little ones have much to share about being healthy), happens with intergenerational programming. Health promotion through intergenerational connections between older adults and youth helps reduce social isolation while inspiring innovative and fun activities that make everyone healthier.
So, when thinking about what type of intergenerational programming may be possible at your park and recreation site, how about considering a specific focus on nutrition? What types of intergenerational fun can be had that promotes good nutrition and healthy eating? Consider getting a group of youth and older adults together at your site when it’s safe to do so, or on a Zoom/virtual meeting, to brainstorm some ideas for this year’s intergenerational nutrition programming. Here are some ideas to help get the creative juices flowing!
The Intergenerational Foods of the Month Club
Check out the Commit to Health Foods of the Month webpage for tools, activity sheets, fact sheets, etc. that can be used by all ages.
On location at your site:
- Foods of the Month showcase: Each month/season, ask one older adult and one youth to present facts about the Foods of the Month to the intergenerational group, then lead a discussion.
- Foods of the Month enrichment: Each month, have older adults read to children about the Foods of the Month, then have children write a story about the Foods of the Month.
- Foods of the Month arts and crafts: Review the experiential Foods of the Month resources online and host a monthly Foods of the Month craft day for older adults and youth.
When hosting virtual programs, consider creating a reward program to encourage participation, recording each event so it can be viewed later, and ending each event with a quick physical activity break.
- Host short weekly or monthly intergenerational Foods of the Month virtual meetings in which one child and one older adult take the stage to present three facts each about the Foods of the Month.
- Create an intergenerational Foods of the Month craft challenge where participants of all ages post pictures of their Foods of the Month arts and crafts on Instagram or Facebook. Park and recreation staff can be the judges!
- Consider having some children sing a song about a vegetable, fruit, lean protein, etc. (find songs online, or for more fun, have the children create songs).
The Intergenerational Cooking Guild
In Europe during the 11th-16th centuries, guilds were important social groups that helped support and further the interests of a profession with respect to both training and economic assistance. Consider creating a guild of your own at your park and recreation site — one that promotes intergenerational cooking!
On location at your site, or modified to a virtual platform:
- Cooking classes: Using recipes found in the Foods of the Month newsletters, the rotating host of the Intergenerational Cooking Guild would lead a cooking class that focuses on nutrient-rich foods. The host could be an older adult, youth or both working together.
- Cooking challenges: Consider hosting a monthly or seasonal challenge using a Food of the Month as the challenge item to be prepared in any healthy way the older adults and children find fun.
- Culinary skills: With safety first, consider having older adults help teach lifelong culinary skills like chopping, washing produce, food storage and grocery shopping to the young.
Don’t Forget to be Active
And lest we forget that being active is super important too, maybe consider creating an Intergenerational Fitness Troupe!
- Have teens and/or older adults lead an exercise class at your site, or record a class that can be posted online for people to do on their own time. Consider yoga, Zumba, Tai Chi, dance, stretching, etc.
- Point your clients to fun free exercise programs on the web, such as GoNoodle, and ask them to post pictures of them doing exercises at home, particularly those that include youth and older adults.
- Encourage people of all ages to go on a hike, then post pictures of things they see in nature. If they have questions about something they see, ask them to post the question on your Facebook or Instagram page with hopes someone may have the answer!
As you develop fun intergenerational nutrition-based programming, I challenge you to share your great work with us in the comments below.
Dr. Danielle Hollar is President of Healthy Communities Design & Research, a Woman-Owned Small Business that assists organizations with activities aimed to improve the health of individuals and communities at large. She is the creator of much of the content of the Commit to Health Nutrition Literacy program.