Program to Support Intergenerational Connections for Healthy Aging

Cape Breton University continues to explore opportunities to build partnerships for healthy communities with a new project to engage older Nova Scotians in active living. The project, Uggwata’q: Walking our Way to Wellness, will use a network of academics and community stakeholders to consider the cultural and regional factors that affect healthy aging.  

CBU’s Dr. Lynn LeVatte, Assistant Professor of Education, is excited to be working in partnership with Membertou First Nation, engaging CBU colleagues from the School of Nursing, local community leaders, volunteers, healthcare providers, community organizations, students and youth. Dr. LeVatte says the team will focus on Mi’kmaw and rural Cape Breton communities. They will offer programs to connect people from different age groups, using intergenerational relationships to support healthy aging.  

“We have an opportunity to create an active living model that reflects the fabric of our Cape Breton communities,” says Dr. LeVatte. “We are so fortunate to have cultural diversity as well as intergenerational connections, which are assets to support healthy aging.”  

Membertou First Nation Chief, Terry Paul, is an advocate for the quality of life of older people in their close-knit community and welcomed the opportunity to be involved. He says gaining input from seniors in the community will help dedicate resources that will be most effective in meeting their needs.  

“Respecting the traditional knowledge of our community members will help develop and direct programs to best support them,” says Chief Paul. “This will hopefully promote a continued pathway to healthy aging that is considerate of Mi’kmaw culture across the lifespan.”

Dr. Khaldoun Aldiabat, CBU Associate Professor and Assistant Dean for Research and Scholarship in Nursing, is also a member of the project team. Dr. Aldiabat says while there is plenty of evidence that social interaction, diet and exercise are among the lifestyle factors that support dignified and healthy aging, it’s not a one size fits all situation.  

“Creating programs to support healthy aging that are culturally and regionally effective in diverse communities remains one of the biggest challenges,” says Dr. Aldiabat. “With this project, we are hoping to inform those challenges and offer solutions.” He adds that programs may include community walking programs, with opportunities for health screens such as blood pressure and glucose monitoring. Other programs will be developed using participant profiles to offer things like arthritis therapy, mindfulness sessions and flexibility training for all abilities. Cooking and nutrition programs for youth and seniors are also being explored.  

The project is funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Seniors and Long-Term Care. CBU’s Centre of Excellence for Healthy Aging and Centre for Health, Wellness and Extended Learning were awarded the funding and will support the project implementation.  

Congratulations to the project team, we look forward to the outcomes of this important work!