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Roadblocks to avoid for building active adult programs

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– Written By Matt Schinelli

It is fairly safe to say that most program leaders or recreation supervisors have struggled to come up with the "perfect" activity or next "big thing" for older active adults. Typically trying to navigate the essential questions of, "what is the activity?", "where it takes place?", and "who will lead?", it is no easy task! In fact, the very idea of embarking on this process can discourage a comprehensive evaluation from taking place.

Step one: release some pressure off the valve, but acknowledging that a portion of the problem can be resolved by a fraction of an answer!

What this implies is that an activity doesn't have to include all or the full set of the traditional elements to start or succeed. Officials, scorekeepers, numerous pieces of equipment, and even large storage space for the equipment doesn't need to be part of the formula. Consider yoga, a perfect template for this approach. It requires little to no equipment because most people bring their own mat, and requires a smaller footprint either inside or outdoors. Additionally, with a minimal investment in equipment (instructional yoga wall or floor signage) an instructor may not even be necessary, just perhaps some soothing music might be the magic ingredient!

Adopting that template can inspire other activities to be offered in the same manner. For example, in an earlier blog focusing on Pickleball / Four Square a recreation department can provide Four Square Roll-Out Activities® or Reusable Stencils for participants to quickly get moving! For decades people played handball with nothing more than a ball and wall. 

Even an Aerobics program can get started again using the same approach. The key is focus on equipment that can eliminate some of the barriers. Most people can quickly learn how to enjoy a modified or smaller scaled routine using rollout mats or Reusable Stencils that showcase appropriate movements. Parks have long adopted workout zones along walking trails. 

Step two: take your hands off the wheel!

What this implies is that older active adults have tons of life experience that can serve as the catalyst for building new programs. One very effective approach is to create a survey of who might be interested in sitting on a "program development" committee. 

Connecting a few motivated individuals to brainstorm on how to best select and offer basic movement experiences can relieve some of the pressure on a supervisor, and more importantly empower the community to gain greater access to their township facilities.

By supplying the committee with a blueprint or drawing of all the usable safe spaces at the center, along with a list of existing equipment, and visual examples of outside vendors' equipment, the committee can quickly get the "ball rolling" toward a handful of potential activities.

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Step three: CELEBRATE the effort!

Realistically very few programs begin and run without some hiccups. In most cases the simplest path provides the greatest results. Why not kick off a new program season with intergenerational dance! 

Capture the hearts and minds of the whole community at one time with the easiest of all movement experiences - dance! This is a great place to also ask for people's ideas and if there are any interested parties to serve on a community movement committee. Hand out some "what would you create" flyers, and set a meeting time for a follow up. 

Don't forget to invite the local bankers and politicians, as they might be able to showcase their commitment to the community as well!

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