Spotlight on Innovation: KCHC Community Gardens
We're highlighting cutting-edge programs and successful strategies of our 2017 Aging Innovation Award Winners with this spotlight feature. This week we shine a spotlight on the Kentucky Regional Planning & Development Agency (KIPDA) Area Agency on Aging and Independent Living (AAAIL), winner in the Healthy Aging category.
In 2015, the Kentucky Coalition for Healthy Communities (KCHC), a health coalition co-created by KIPDA AAAIL and the University of Louisville's (UofL) Institute for Sustainable Health and Optimal Aging, received a funding from the American Planning Association to work on several different initiatives related to physical activity and access to nutritious foods. As part of the Plan4Health grant, KCHC developed a community garden program to address older adults' need for access to fresh produce, physical activity opportunities and socialization activities.
The coalition decided to create its first garden at an elementary school because it would allow for replicability and sustainability in the region and would add an intergenerational component to their work addressing isolation and loneliness among older adults. The Family Resource and Youth Services Coordinator at the school conducted targeted outreach to the students' grandparents, resulting in a valuable learning opportunity for the students as their grandparents taught them how to plant different seeds and plants and demonstrated how to take care of the plants as they grew.
The program soon expanded with a partnership between a high school agriculture club and an assisted living facility that allowed students to help build a garden where the older adults live. Gardens have also been established at a food pantry and local senior center.
Materials are donated by organizations or purchased with funds collected by county health and wellness coalitions. Planting and maintenance is done by intergenerational groups, with advice and assistance from cooperative extension offices in each county.
Since receiving the 2017 Aging Innovation Award, the coalition has developed an Intergenerational Garden Toolkit to formalize the process and aid other communities in replicating the program. The toolkit has been presented at multiple state and regional conferences and KIPDA has spoken at regional meetings of Family Resource and Youth Services Coordinators to help educate communities on how to implement the model. In December 2017, the agency received the Outstanding Community Service Award from the Southeastern Association of Area Agencies on Aging at its annual conference.
To learn more about this year's winners, read our press release and check out our book of winners!