Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Embracing a Multicultural Community of Recently Immigrated Older Adults

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Embracing a Multicultural Community of Recently Immigrated Older Adults

Article excerpt

Inclusivity is a core value of parks and recreation and is the epitome of NRPA's Social Equity Pillar. Through various programs and services, agencies and facilities across the country work hard to ensure that people from all backgrounds and abilities are able to enjoy their parks and recreation facilities with ease. Seattle Parks and Recreation has more than embraced this concept with its Food and Fitness program--serving newly immigrated older adults and their families at facilities throughout the city. This program, which includes advocacy and referral services, nutritious meals, recreation and wellness programs, and a variety of other requested services, is an example of how valuable these inclusive services can be to the surrounding community.

Creating Access

"The Food and Fitness program started through a partnership with the Seattle Mayor's Office for Senior Citizens and several community partners who were seeking additional programming space for elders in the community in 2004," say Jill Ellison, Recreation Program Specialist; Trevor Gregg, Recreation Manager-Central Operations; and Brenda Kramer, Manager-Lifelong Recreation of Seattle Parks and Recreation--who all work directly with the program. "In an effort to increase access to healthy food choices that were culturally relevant and to increase health and wellness activities for immigrant and refugee elders, Seattle Parks and Recreation created the program with various other agencies that serve immigrant and refugee elders in the community."

In the Central Geographic District, the Food and Fitness Program hosts the Korean, Vietnamese and Eritrean/Ethiopian elders at Miller, Yesler and Garfield community centers. The free program provides engaging activities, culturally appropriate meals, and health and fitness opportunities for elders who have recently arrived in the United States and the City of Seattle. It also provides an opportunity to connect with the community and socialize in a welcoming, safe environment.

"The programs typically meet two days per week, providing various physical activity programs, including line dancing, tai chi, ping pong, interactive karaoke, partner dancing and multiple special events," say Ellison, Gregg and Kramer. "Additional services include haircuts, health screenings and program advocacy and referral appropriate to the cultural needs of the elders being served. Education sessions are also offered by social workers, nutritionists and other specialists." Access to healthy food is also an important facet of this program. To feed the almost 100 people who attend each session, volunteers prepare and cook culturally specific, healthy meals for the elders in the program to eat at the facilities and take home to their families. Local restaurants also donate prepared food for the participants during the program.

A Community Effort

The Food and Fitness program works with several community partners who help fund and operate its initiatives. "Program funding was initially provided by the Aging and Disability Services section of Seattle Human Services Department," say Ellison et al. "Later, this responsibility was transferred to the community providers who were looking for reduced rental costs in an effort to serve more elders. Seattle Parks and Recreation was able to provide the space and gain a tremendous benefit -a connection to elders from the immigrant and refugee communities. …

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