Do we ever get to a stage in life when role models are no longer
Most all of us likely remember certain people in our lives who served
example, taught us life lessons, or were just always there for us
some sort of support or guidance. But what is it like to actually
be a role
model yourself? Did you know that most of you probably are -- but
even realize it?
I recently had the opportunity to both observe and participate
in the first
annual Intergenerational Games held at the U.S. Olympic Training
which brought together 4th grade students from Vista Square School
older adult athletes from the local Senior Olympics for a day of
activity and interaction between generations using sport and physical
activity as the link.
Over 50 student and senior partner teams spent the day together
their way through a variety of skill and knowledge challenges that
a basketball shoot, street hockey hit, tennis shot, soccer shoot,
toss, LaCrosse shot, shot put (minus the heavy weighted ball), handball
shot, field hockey kick, and bocce ball aim that was by all means
than competitive. Teams were also challenged at four knowledge stops
the way where seniors and students collaborated to best answer questions
the following categories: Olympic History, San Diego Sports, Health
Lifestyle, as well as Who's Who in Sports.
Katie Judd, a member of the County of San Diego's Aging & Independence
Services (AIS) health promotion division and brainchild of the event,
up with this idea of linking seniors and students after remembering
role she played as a mentor in High School to elementary age children.
"Surprisingly, even at the young age of 16 and 17, I was a
participated in a similar program where our volleyball team taught
of elementary kids the basics of our sport," Katie shared.
"So now in my
work with older adults, I definitely saw the benefit of linking
athletes and students together so kids can learn the importance
and fun of
being healthy all through life. And that you're never too old to
Perhaps one of the most detrimental and challenging aspects of
sterotyping. And the way younger people often view older adults
typically in the most positive light.
"Kids usually have such a negative image or stereotype of
older adults --
but it's usually just a matter of connecting and seeing seniors
different way," Katie said. "Some don't even have an older
grandparent as a role model at all -- so this gave us the opportunity
shed a positive light on the issue by partnering kids and seniors
AIS, under the guidance of Pam Smith, the executive director, has
expanded its reach to not only serve seniors in the community with
variety of programs ranging from transportation, nutrition, security,
counseling in an effort to help them maintain their dignity and
independence, but also recognizes their value in the community,
"Aging is changing," Pam Smith said at the opening ceremonies.
today are no longer retiring to the easy chair -- they want to keep
stay healthy, and be involved, and this event is a great way to
generations together, diminish stereotyping, and learn from each
Part of Pam's vision to embrace and celebrate all aspects of aging
seen in her staff appointment of the only intergenerational coordinator
the state of California. Not because it's just a nice thing to do
because she believes it's necessary. Generating positive awareness
generations can help facilitate a reduction in youth violence and
improved family support.
Of course, one of the issues of great concern today is the lack
activity opportunities available to our youth in the school system.
cuts have pretty well eliminated exercise and activity from the
which unfortunately has now created a whole new set of health problems
among our young adults.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that the number of
with Diabetes 2 (known as Adult Onset Diabetes because it has historically
been diagnosed exclusively in older people) has increased 70 percent
people in their 30s, and the increase among children has increased
in the last five years! This is an epidemic and a definite healthcare
crisis coming down the pike that will unlikely cost considerably
treat than any savings being made by cutting these types of programs.
With one of the goals of this first annual Intergenerational Games
increase mutual understanding and respect between generations and
promote healthy, active, life-long behaviors, it's evident that
was this achieved, but more importantly, really needed.
"I've never played sports with my Granma before," said
one student who
became quite shy when I asked her name. "I didn't even think
do this stuff -- but they can and it's cool!"
Changing people's mindsets about what's possible, particularly
with age, is
one of the most positive things we can do in this society. Imagine
contributions that could be made if people believed they still had
something to contribute, regardless of their age, and the effect
have on others of all ages.
At this inaugural event, although scores were kept and medals awarded,
everyone was a winner. During the award ceremony it was obvious
was reached as one student participant whispered to her new senior
"it doesn't matter if you win or lose...it's how you play the
We're all role models and mentors in our own way -- as humans,
always watching and learning from each other. So it's not only about
you play the game -- it's about playing it period, at every age.
Ferrin is a local gerontologist residing in Carlsbad. She is a certified
AARP retirement specialist, motivational speaker, consultant, and
author of a
nationally released book titled, "What's Age Got To Do With
It?" For column
ideas contact her at (760)438-2126 or on the internet at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126 web: