Young and Old Win Medals and Each Other’s Hearts

The South County Intergenerational Games recently took place at the U.S. Olympic Training Center with seniors and third graders from Hazel Goes Cook Elementary running, jumping, kicking—even tossing Frisbees together.

The senior volunteers and students were teamed in pairs for the activities for the Games, a project of San Diego County’s Aging and Independence Services, Health and Human Services Agency. The event is designed to promote physical activity, provide health information and develop lifelong healthy behaviors.  By bringing different generations together, mutual understanding and respect add to the impact of the program’s goals.

“We’re seeing a bridging of the generation gap with this event,” said Cook Principal Mathew Shy. “It shows the importance of leading a healthy lifestyle, and how you can lead a healthy lifestyle well into retirement. The kids are also building relationships with members of our community through sports.”

Cook students didn’t want to leave some of the activity stations. Said Shy, “To use one of their terms, they are ‘stoked.’ They are happy to be here and having a blast.”

Current health patterns show that more than 25 percent of youth are overweight, while seniors are threatened by increases in diabetes and heart disease.

At the Intergenerational Games, after young and old are paired up, they attend an opening ceremony patterned after the Olympics and then they get to meet an athlete-in-training who displays the results of healthy lifestyles, nutrition and physical activity.

Paired participants then begin a circuit of stations that alternate between physical activities and educational stations with information. Each person participates in each activity or lesson. Later, the kids and their new-found elder friends took turns awarding one another medals at the closing ceremonies before sitting down together to share lunch.

“It was a really terrific morning learning about active, healthy living and being out there walking those grounds at the Olympic Training Center,” said CVESD Board Member Pamela B. Smith, who also is the Director of Aging and Independence Services for San Diego County. “It is really a nice event.”

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