The Catawba Council on Aging was awarded the “Positive Images in Aging” award by the South Eastern Association of Area Agencies on Aging for our Pen Pal program. The COA matches senior volunteers with 4th-grade students in Mrs. Whitener’s class at Banoak Elementary School. Senior volunteers and students exchange letters monthly. Through the Pen Pal program, children improve their communication skills while also learning about the value of older adults. The program also helps to prevent social isolation and provides an exciting opportunity for community engagement for older adult volunteers. During the school year, the WPCOG Area Agency on Aging staff partner with the COA to provide Aging Sensitivity Training to the elementary school children. This training helps to give the children insight into issues that older adults may deal with, like hearing loss or arthritis. At the same time, the training also helps to educate the children on the fun and active parts of aging and help address stereotypes of older adults.
To conclude the Pen Pal program every year, the students get to take a field trip to the COA and enjoy a pizza party and meet their pals. During the celebration, the students get the opportunity to show the seniors things they have learned throughout the year. This award was given to the COA for their development of this unique and successful intergenerational program and for helping to instill a positive image of aging to elementary school children.
COA Award pictured left to right: Sarah Stamey, WPCOG Aging Specialist, Vickie Blevins, Executive Director of the Catawba County Council on Aging, and Tina Miller, WPCOG AAA Director