The last time Jonas Carvalho worked with youth was more than 25 years ago when he coached soccer.
This fall Carvalho revisited a leadership role with youth, as he worked with the students of Spectrum Community school and Marigold elementary. It was part of the District of Saanich’s new Intergenerational Physical Activity Leadership (iPal). The initiative encourages physical activity while breaking down intergenerational barriers within the immediate community.
“Apparently, I learned, the older generation as well as the younger generation has a preconceived notion about each other,” Carvalho said. “iPal has changed my perceptions about students.”
Carvalho came into the iPal program with a group of volunteers from the Silver Threads service for seniors located at Hampton Park. They matched up with Grade 10 student leaders from Spectrum and Grade 5 student leaders from Marigold. Representatives from all three groups met daily at Marigold for six weeks this fall to run through activities and exercises.
Members from the Marigold-based program met there on Dec. 10 for a final celebration at the iPal Health Fair. Among the activity stations the Marigold and Spectrum students rotated through was a pickle-ball court, a heart rate measuring workshop, a chair exercise workshop and a nutrition workshop.
In the nutrition station, Spectrum students led Marigold students through the importance of eating a healthy portion of vegetables at most meals, followed by the creation of a veggie and fruit skewer.
Saanich recreation programmer Mena Westhaver was introduced to the idea for the program during a seminar at the University of Victoria. Doctoral candidate Jennifer McConnell, who is studying in social dimensions of health, gave a presentation about a similar project she had set up between Cordova Bay elementary school students and older adults from the attached Cordova Bay 55 Plus.
Cordova Bay was partnering students and seniors for a digital photography project, a model McConnell adapted to focus on physical activity. That’s been happening at Cordova Bay since 2013.
Westhaver partnered with McConnell and it’s been a smash hit, she said.
“This year was a big expansion. We added in the Grade 10 students and it’s gone fabulous,” McConnell said.
At Cordova Bay, they brought in Claremont secondary Grade 10s. A third program was successful this year between Campus View elementary and Mount Douglas secondary, and older adults from the Luther Court Society.
“The Grade 10s really brought the program to a new place, their availability to lead the Grade 5s during daily lunch hours really helped the daily activities go well,” McConnell said.
Many of the older adults have a schedule busy with other things and had a hard time getting to the elementary schools everyday.
“I’d do it again,” said Grade 10 Spectrum student Cory Stashewsky. “The [Grade 5s] responded well to us, I think it gives them someone they can look up to who’s not an adult.”
And from the Grade 10 perspective, Stashewsky said it was a nice experience getting to know the different people in his community.
“We worked well with the older adults, it was good to work with people of different ages. I recommend this program for anyone.”