Dec 2002
Vol. 3 No. 12

Do we ever get to a stage in life when role models are no longer important?
Most all of us likely remember certain people in our lives who served as an
example, taught us life lessons, or were just always there for us providing
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 may not
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 Center
which brought together 4th grade students from Vista Square School and
older adult athletes from the local Senior Olympics for a day of fun
activity and interaction between generations using sport and physical
activity as the link.

Over 50 student and senior partner teams spent the day together navigating
their way through a variety of skill and knowledge challenges that included
a basketball shoot, street hockey hit, tennis shot, soccer shoot, frisbee
toss, LaCrosse shot, shot put (minus the heavy weighted ball), handball
shot, field hockey kick, and bocce ball aim that was by all means more fun
than competitive. Teams were also challenged at four knowledge stops along
the way where seniors and students collaborated to best answer questions in
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, came
up with this idea of linking seniors and students after remembering the
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 mentor and
participated in a similar program where our volleyball team taught a group
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 senior
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 play and
have fun!"

Perhaps one of the most detrimental and challenging aspects of life is
sterotyping. And the way younger people often view older adults is not
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 in a
different way," Katie said. "Some don't even have an older adult or
grandparent as a role model at all -- so this gave us the opportunity to
shed a positive light on the issue by partnering kids and seniors together."

AIS, under the guidance of Pam Smith, the executive director, has really
expanded its reach to not only serve seniors in the community with a
variety of programs ranging from transportation, nutrition, security, and
counseling in an effort to help them maintain their dignity and
independence, but also recognizes their value in the community, too.

"Aging is changing," Pam Smith said at the opening ceremonies. "Seniors
today are no longer retiring to the easy chair -- they want to keep active,
stay healthy, and be involved, and this event is a great way to link
generations together, diminish stereotyping, and learn from each other."

Part of Pam's vision to embrace and celebrate all aspects of aging can be
seen in her staff appointment of the only intergenerational coordinator in
the state of California. Not because it's just a nice thing to do -- but
because she believes it's necessary. Generating positive awareness between
generations can help facilitate a reduction in youth violence and foster
improved family support.

Of course, one of the issues of great concern today is the lack of physical
activity opportunities available to our youth in the school system. Budget
cuts have pretty well eliminated exercise and activity from the curriculum
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 of people
with Diabetes 2 (known as Adult Onset Diabetes because it has historically
been diagnosed exclusively in older people) has increased 70 percent among
people in their 30s, and the increase among children has increased tenfold
in the last five years! This is an epidemic and a definite healthcare
crisis coming down the pike that will unlikely cost considerably more to
treat than any savings being made by cutting these types of programs.

With one of the goals of this first annual Intergenerational Games being to
increase mutual understanding and respect between generations and to
promote healthy, active, life-long behaviors, it's evident that not only
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 Granmas could
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 the
contributions that could be made if people believed they still had
something to contribute, regardless of their age, and the effect it would
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 this goal
was reached as one student participant whispered to her new senior friend,
"it doesn't matter if you win or's how you play the game!"

We're all role models and mentors in our own way -- as humans, we're
always watching and learning from each other. So it's not only about how
you play the game -- it's about playing it period, at every age.

Kelly 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
Kelly Ferrin, Gerontologist Lifestyles (760)438-2126 web:

Good News Articles!


What's Age Got To Do With It?