Seniors and Youth Working Towards a Healthier Community
History and Background: Urban Trails
In 2000, Largo began updating its urban trails by having city staff link trails
to points of interest in the city. Using the trails, the city initially intended
to tailor recreation programs to specific age and population groups. Then, after
conducting several community focus groups, the Largo Recreation, Parks, and Arts
Department chose a new direction. Instead of focusing on age groups such as seniors,
Largo decided to adopt an inter-generational approach.
Using a framework of defined age groups, Largo designed a program combining
senior activities with youth initiatives that focused on learning because
retirees have skills to share with youth.24 Program planners believe
this approach will increase walking and biking among all residents through
the creation of urban trails, while increasing interaction between generations.
Planners also hope the multi-generational approach will increase trail
use and enhance teens’ sense of being valued
by the community.
Program Description: Uniting Generations and Encouraging Older Adults to Be
Urban trails construction started in summer 2002. The Largo Recreation, Parks,
and Arts Department recruited teens from a youth summer job program to help
them plot, build, and maintain the trails.25 In
total, 25-30 urban trails will link services, parks, and recreation facilities
and areas. Trails will range from those a few miles long around assisted
living facilities to more complex trail systems that integrate walking,
biking, and public transportation. City buses – all equipped with bike racks – will
connect with trails so people can navigate the city without the use of
To promote trail use, the program planners created a pocket guide to trails
with maps, information about trail distance and difficulty, and descriptions
of points of interest (e.g., stores, parks). The pocket guide will be sold
for a nominal fee to cover printing expenses.
Prior to beginning trail work, the youth underwent training. They traveled
city blocks using wheelchairs and walkers; some were blindfolded to experience
navigating with visual limitations. They also timed street signals and observed
sidewalk conditions. Besides learning more about seniors, youth learned first-hand
about the links between mobility and the physical environment. Following this
training, the teens began plotting and planning trails. They used pedometers,
journals, compasses, and digital cameras to document trail development and
map rest stops, bathrooms, and water fountains.
In turn, Largo Recreation, Parks, and Arts Department staff and senior volunteers
mentored teens and assisted them in honing job skills. Teens received mock
job descriptions, completed resumes, and participated in simulated panel interviews.
This interaction will not only increase the social and professional abilities
of the adolescents, but also allow teens to access knowledge from adults in
a positive environment. Likewise, the exchange will allow seniors to interact
with younger people in a safe setting to refute the idea that teens are threatening
or dangerous. The personal connection to the trail planners may further entice
seniors to use the trails.
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Walking and Biking Promotion
To ensure success, the Largo Recreation, Parks, and Arts Department is
developing relationships with several local businesses and community
groups. The Largo Community Center, a public facility, will serve as
a meeting place, training center, and the site of the first walking trail.
In addition, an assisted living facility has volunteered its “in-house” fitness
trainer to provide education, training, and guidance for senior walking
Under the guidance of fitness professionals, seniors will be able to take
part in 30-minute walks each weekday in the community center auditorium,
a comfortable and air-conditioned setting. Staff will assign each participant
a record card and ask them to note daily walking distances and times. Medical
staff from a local hospital senior care facility will monitor walkers’ pulse rates
and blood pressure on a monthly basis. These data will document walkers’ progress
As participants’ physical conditioning improves, and as the urban trails
pocket guide is sold, staff will encourage walkers to use the pocket guide
for planning outdoor trail walks. Participants will continue using their record
cards, and hospital staff will monitor walkers monthly.
Partners: Businesses and Non-Profits
living facilities and local hospitals
- Largo Chamber of Commerce is a
key partner and has been enthusiastic about the program for the value
it could bring to future Largo employers – and
increase businesses’ bottom line. The trails will lead residents to
small businesses in Largo, which will be numbered on the trail maps for easy
identification. The stops at small businesses should demonstrate that exercise
and errands can be combined and provide periodic respite from Largo’s
heat and humidity.
- Main Street, USA: A non-profit organization dedicated
to helping small communities redevelop their downtown districts.
- Largo Rotary
The Bottom Line: Funding
A local non-profit foundation, The Palms of Largo Intergenerational Foundation,
whose mission is to promote intergenerational activities, funded the program.
The program also receives funding from the National Institutes of Health’s
Hearts ‘N Parks program.
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The program began in summer 2002 and future growth will be determined later.
A previous assessment in Largo indicated the city was not as accessible for
seniors as it should be. Based on these findings, the city proposed changes
to its physical environment. Future evaluation could be based on this same
The city will evaluate changes in the physical conditioning of seniors participating
in the fitness program (outcome evaluation). Feedback solicited from participants
will also help guide program growth and development (process evaluation).
Biggest Success: A Promising Beginning
Although the program began during summer 2002, program planners report that
the switch from an age-specific approach to an inter-generational one has improved
planning. Community members, including senior volunteers, business owners,
and teens, have embraced the idea, as evidenced by their commitment to the
Biggest Obstacle: Limited Resources
The biggest obstacle facing the program is limited funding and personnel. Like
other communities, Largo has sufficient resources for planning and execution
but could enhance and more extensively evaluate the program if additional resources
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