In celebration of Older Americans Month 2019, NRPA has been showcasing how local park and recreation agencies are promoting healthy aging in parks. We have highlighted the City of Mount Vernon (New York) Parks and Recreation’s efforts to address food insecurity among older adults, as well as the City of Meadville (Pennsylvania) Parks and Recreation’s use of a community garden to bring generations together to address social isolation.
Most recently, NRPA’s Healthy Aging in Parks team visited the Vienna Community Center, which is operated by Vienna Parks and Recreation in Virginia, to learn more about what they are doing to engage older adults in their community.
The multi-use and intergenerational community center is the setting for various programs and services offered to residents — particularly the older adults — that truly embody this year’s Older Americans Month theme of connect, create, and contribute. We learned that the center offers various opportunities for older adults to connect with their friends, family and neighbors;create through the various arts, crafts and day trip opportunities; and contribute by encouraging older adults to remain vital to their communities.
“The center serves a population of 16,000 in an area of about 4 miles,” said Kathy Blevins, Recreation Coordinator of the Mature Adult Programs for the Vienna Parks and Recreation Department. “We like to say that Vienna is a small town with a big community.”
While visiting the center, we had the privilege of observing an older adult fitness class, as well as speaking with Blevins and two participants from the fitness class, Nancy and Joyce. The center’s programs have allowed both 90-year-old Nancy and 75-year-old Joyce to stay active while getting to know others in the community.
“The services offered by the department allow older adults to stay connected to their community and age in place,” Blevins said. See a video of NRPA staff at the center, interviews of Blevins, Nancy and Joyce, and tour one of the center’s fitness classes below!
Older Americans Month 2019 might be coming to an end, but the efforts of parks and recreation to improve and maintain the health and wellbeing of older adults will certainly continue to expand. As Kathy said, “the older adult population is really booming, and the demand for services is increasing. Look at the current programs being offered, reevaluate, jazz things up a bit and ensure that programs are accessible and affordable.”
We want to continue to hear how your agency is promoting healthy aging in parks! Submit your Healthy Aging in Parks Success Story by the end of the month for a chance to win one of four $50 gift cards!
Visit Healthy Aging in Parks Initiative to learn more.
Cheers to Healthy Aging in Parks!
Lesha Spencer-Brown, MPH, CPH is an NRPA Senior Program Manager.