“We congratulate Greater Richmond, VA on being a winner. It takes a great deal of effort and forward thinking to create a community where members of every generation thrive and want to live,” notes Donna Butts, executive director of Generations United.
Greater Richmond is an area rich with traditions, culture, history and geography. With over 40 local intergenerational programs, festivals, events and leisure activities, bringing together our 1 million- plus residents, Richmond thrives off meaningful connections between older adults and youth. A community jewel is our James River Park System, 600 protected acres of shoreline and river islands running through the community. This physical environment is an organic forum for recreation and active living blending together different generations that learn from one another.
Richmond is model community building new and solidifying withstanding relationships across the ages. Here are several programs that are making a difference and keeping people of all ages in our community active:
- CATCH Healthy Habits a national evidence-based program hosted by Senior Connections, The Capital Area Agency on Aging and Virginia Commonwealth University Department of Gerontology. Adult volunteers teach K-5 students the value of healthy eating and physical activity in an effort to combat obesity and instill lifelong values. This past year, over 150 youth were educated at five sites, 20- plus adults volunteered and 30-plus older adults engaged in our work. Programs like CATCH Healthy Habits and others stem from Greater Richmond’s intergenerational roots, going back to 1984, when Westminster Canterbury Richmond became an intergenerational shared site after including a Child Development Center with its Continuing Care Retirement Community. CATCH Healthy Habits is a Generations United 2015 Program of Distinction re-designee that was first honored in 2012.
- 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 Senior Connections’ Friendship Cafes. The YMCA of Greater Richmond is known for having a natural convening space with multiple locations across the region. The program engages seniors in physical activity, healthy movements and the arts.
- The region’s first intergenerational program, Foster Grandparents, kicked off more than 35 years ago with a nationwide launch. This nationwide program has served over 80,000 children. The program pairs adults 55 and older with children and youth with special needs to serve as mentors, tutors, and caregivers. Locally, the Richmond Foster Grandparent Program has grown to 70 volunteers who serve in more than 35 agencies. 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.”
- Sports Backers produces and supports nationally recognized quality sporting events and health programs that motivate locals, visitors and people of all ages to be more active. Over the past 23 years, it has helped to successfully transform our region and our vision for healthy, engaging activities among friends, neighbors and communities. Building on the momentum of motivating individuals to adopt a healthier and more active lifestyle, the Sports Backers launched Active RVA, a region-wide initiative to motivate area residents, businesses and local governments to make physical activity a personal and regional priority
- Chesterfield County’s F.U.N.- Families Understanding Numbers is a financial literacy program targeting grandparents and grandchildren. The program is designed to help grandfamilies make the most of their finances. Participants learn how to reduce debt, protect your retirement, plan for the future and advocate for yourself as a consumer. This program is offered in partnership between Chesterfield libraries and the Senior Advocate’s Office.
- PALETTE (Promoting Art for Life Enrichment Through Transgenerational Engagement) was launched in Richmond, VA in January 2014. Through this intergenerational art program, active older adults are paired with interdisciplinary undergraduate and graduate students to participate in creative arts activities. Over the course of 14 weeks, participants attend visual art classes and cultural outings; students attend educational seminars. These experiences provide an opportunity to meaningfully engage in creative activities as a way to find common ground with other generations.
The Greater Richmond Region looks forward to continuing to celebrating all ages and this award with other communities across the country. Presentation of this year’s 2015 Best Intergenerational Community awards will occur on February 11 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Best Intergenerational Communities awards program is made possible with a grant from MetLife Foundation. We are very proud Richmond has been selected.