At JABA Community Senior Centers across the area, one of the most important programming aspects involves interactions with community members and organizations. For instance, JABA has partnered with the UVA School of Architecture’s Center of Design and Health to study whether various nature-based activities can lead to improvements in emotional, physical and cognitive health in seniors, and Centers members have participated in a pen pal program with local school children, and a letter-writing program during the pandemic with people across the country.
But that kind of exchange extends even farther than that.
Recently, members of JABA’s Nelson County Community Senior Center got to meet and interact virtually with emerging leaders from across Sub-Saharan Africa, thanks to a partnership with the Presidential Precinct, which works with Virginia universities, historical foundations, and the U.S. Department of State, to bring emerging young leaders from across the world together with U.S. professionals to foster connection and collaboration. Nelson Seniors and the Presidential Precinct fellows participated in a Health Steps exercise class together at the Center in Nelson and shared stories about their respective communities. The fellows got to learn what agencies like JABA do for older adults and their families in the community.
“It was a way to bridge and to connect over the joy of music, over the joy of movement, and some of the differences that we may see in others in our community and on the other side of the world. Relationships can be established and joy can be found by just coming together,” said Emily Foreman, JABA’s senior nutrition program manager, who helped organize the event.
“It was everything we hoped for — fun, interesting, and some neat connecting between our two groups across the miles and time zones,” said Nancy Hopkins, director of programs for the Presidential Precinct. “The Fellows absolutely loved learning about the incredible work of JABA, and they were so impressed by how active and engaged your wonderful JABA seniors are.”
And it wasn’t the first time that JABA has worked with the Presidential Precinct. Before the pandemic, JABA hosted a young woman from Nicaragua fighting for the rights of elders in her country, an experience that turned out to be transformative for her and JABA.
Samanta Lacayo Trujillo was one of 10 young Latin American and Caribbean entrepreneurs, selected from a pool of 500 applicants, that the Presidential Precinct placed with businesses and organizations in Charlottesville. At 29, Trujillo had founded the Centro de Desarrollo Integral para la Vejez in the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, a center where aging adults can prepare for retirement. The center also offers training for caregivers who want to specialize in the care of elders.
Trujillo was particularly impressed with the pen pal program between seniors at JABA’s Mary Williams Center and kids at a local elementary school, which was done with little funding but had a big impact. Indeed, then Gov. Terry McAuliffe called it one of the state’s “great programs” at the Virginia Governor’s Conference on Aging. Trujillo would go back to Nicaragua to implement the same kind of intergenerational program.
“We look forward to bringing a future in-person group to JABA when the time is right,” said Hopkins, “…that would be a treat.”
Indeed, and it might just help change the world.
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