Central Falls Mayor James Diossa joins LISC Rhode Island staff members and participants at the Intergenerational Farmers Market Project at Forand Manor in Central Falls.
CENTRAL FALLS – The Macarena, that pop dance craze that swept the nation in the mid90s, experienced a brief resurgence yesterday afternoon as seniors and teens took to the floor at Forand Manor to mark out those familiar moves.
Mayor James Diossa even joined in and encouraged seniors to participate with residents cheering on.
The celebration marked the culmination of a pilot project, known as the Intergenerational Farmers Market Project, created by the Local Initiative Support Corps to combat senior isolation. The three-session series brought together area teens from Central Falls High School as well as summer youth staff with seniors for a program that uses storytelling and cultural exchanges to break through barriers and help form relationships.
The series finished with a meal using recipes provided by the seniors and using farmer’s market produce.
“One of the key things we heard from residents during our initial listening tour was about the problems faced by seniors,” said Jeanne Cola, executive director of LISC Rhode Island. LISC Rhode Island is the backbone agency responsible for the Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone and conducted the listening tour as part of that Rhode Island Department of Health program.
“Positive interaction and a strong sense of community is an important social determinant of health,” says Cola. “This program is the result of our efforts to address that issue.”
Organizers saw the success of an earlier Pawtucket and Central Falls program that paired teens with seniors for snow removal and looked for an opportunity to build on that idea.
“The seniors really appreciated the help that winter and enjoyed developing relationships with the teens,” said Cola. “What was a bit surprising was that we saw that it was a valuable relationship to the youth as well. We started looking at ways to continue that momentum.”
Grant funding from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation allowed LISC Rhode Island to explore ways to build those relationships. The resulting format combines healthy eating and storytelling with movement and crafts.
The format seems to be one that works.
“We have residents who typically stay in their rooms who are joining in,” says Meaghan Levasseur, resident service coordinator at the Central Falls Housing Authority. “It’s so nice to see them out and enjoying themselves.”
The Tufts Health Plan Foundation agrees. Building communities that are responsive to the needs of older people is the focus behind the Foundation’s activity.
“Each community will follow its own path to becoming age and dementia-friendly. Support from Tufts Health Plan Foundation helps ensure resources reach underrepresented communities at greatest risk for disparities,” said Nora Moreno Cargie, president of the foundation and vice president, corporate citizenship for Tufts Health Plan. “Everyone has a voice. It’s important that we listen.”
The Tufts Health Plan Foundation has recently announced a two-year grant of $120,000 to LISC to expand the intergenerational programming to four new Health Equity Zone communities in Rhode Island.
“We are off to Newport next,” says Cola. “We are excited to see what the program will look like in that community – possibly we will get them up for the electric slide.”