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Spotlight on Innovations and Achievements: San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services

Learn how this California AAA launched an intergenerational program to celebrate Latino(x) culture and facilitate sharing of talents and resources between different generations. The program aims to empower older adults, reinforce feelings of being valued community members, mitigate feelings of loneliness and promote youth leadership.

We're proud to highlight the award-winning work of the 2020 winners of n4a's Aging Innovations and Achievement Awards in this weekly spotlight feature. This week, we are focusing on the San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services' Weaving Hearts Intergenerational Program. The agency was a 2020 Aging Innovations Award winner in the Intergenerational Programs category. The 2020 AIA Awards were made possible thanks to the support of Centene.
 
Intergenerational programs provide critical links to engage both the young and the old. The San Francisco Department of Disability and Aging Services (DAS) worked with Mission Neighborhood Centers, Inc. (MNC), a local DAS provider, to launch Weaving Hearts in January 2019. Weaving Hearts is an intergenerational program that celebrates Latino(x) culture and facilitate sharing of talents and resources between different generations. It was developed to address the elevated barriers older adults who are immigrants or who have limited English proficiency face when accessing services, the increased risk for social isolation, and the demonstrated gap in technology usage, access and skills among older adults, especially among older adult minority populations.
 
Weaving Hearts facilitates the sharing of talents and resources between older adults and youth to build relationships that are mutually beneficial by offering three separate intergenerational components. Each One Teach One is a percussion and singing intergenerational music class in which older adults learn songs and musical skills and share what they learn with preschool children and their parents. La Vida Comida brings together older adults with elementary and junior high school youth to make healthy, culturally significant meals, with recipes selected by the older adults. Tech-Pals is a monthly youth-led technology training for older adults that aims to bridge the digital divide for older adults and strengthen youth communication skills. These three components empower older adults and offer socialization to mitigate feelings of loneliness.
 
In 2018–2019, 48 older adults participated in the program and 40 completed a follow-up evaluation survey. All survey respondents reported that the program helped them develop new relationships and that program participation reinforced their feelings of being valued members of the community.
 
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Weaving Hearts began providing music, dancing and cooking classes via Zoom. To ensure older adults can participate in the online classes and virtual activities, program staff distributed tablets and hotspots and provided training to participants. The impact of the program's virtual activities has extended beyond the participants to reach family members and friends who live with the participating older adults. The program has also reinforced family ties as loved ones help the older adults connect to Zoom and join them in the daily music, dancing and cooking classes. The opportunity for virtual connectivity has served as a lifeline for the participants in avoiding social isolation throughout the COVID-19 crisis and has helped foster a sense of community and connectedness among the older adults.
 
Organizations first need to assess demand for intergenerational, culturally relevant programming and establish relationships with youth groups interested in participating. The amount of funding needed depends on the ability of organizations to leverage existing resources for operating costs and staffing. Questions? Contact Tiffany Kearney, tiffany.kearney@sfgov.org.
 
The Weaving Hearts Intergenerational Program is also highlighted in the engAGING Practices: Best Practices for Helping Older Adults Stay Socially Engaged publication from engAGED: The National Resource Center for Engaging Older Adults (administered by n4a). This resource highlights best practices implemented by 11 programs to help others within the Aging Network enhance social engagement among older adults in their communities.
 
For more information about the 2020 winners, see the press release and read the book of winners! To read about past winners and find other best practices for your agency to consider, visit our Best Practices Clearinghouse page.

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