Interview with Jennifer Navala, MPH
(Intergenerational Coordinator/Community Health Promotion Specialist
East and North Central Regions
County of San Diego Health & Human Services Agency)
NEXT MEETING: Wednesday, 2PM, October 4th, La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center
By way of introduction: I have attended several meetings of the Intergenerational Council (East County) and have been impressed with the diverse organizations in attendance and the presentations provided. Jennifer is passionate about the mission of supporting and growing intergenerational programs in San Diego. Read below how Jennifer and San Diego’s Intergenerational Council is supporting that goal.
Patricia: What is the SD Intergenerational Council? Purpose? History?
Jennifer: The Intergenerational (IG) Council is a venue to learn about IG efforts, brainstorm ideas, and meet others who are interested in utilizing all generations to improve quality of life and add an enriching component to their organization or program. The council serves as an avenue to promote and encourage IG strategies in senior and youth programs and discuss new solutions to improve health and wellness across the generations.
Patricia: What do you hope participants get from attending Intergenerational Council meetings?
Jennifer: A typical meeting includes informational presentations (such as needs assessment, evaluation, fundraising, social media, etc.), trainings, networking, and resource sharing.
Social health is an important part of mental health, which greatly affects physical health, and providing opportunities to exercise different interactions with a diverse population of people is beneficial for everyone’s health and wellness. Learning from someone of a different age, and seeing a different perspective changes our own perspectives. I hope that participants see how combining ages can be a huge asset to a program. I hope that people are inspired to create enriching programs, and I hope that people are able to feel free to talk about what challenges they face, as well as find solutions. I love brainstorming and hearing different ideas that have so much potential to create change and impact lives. That is how progress is made!
Patricia: What is the San Diego County role in the Intergenerational Council?
Jennifer: The Intergenerational Councils (there is one in East County and one in North County) originated in 2012, when the County began to put more of an emphasis on IG activities and highlight their importance. With the inception of the Live Well San Diego vision in 2010, igniting the County to partner with organizations to create a healthy, safe, and thriving community, the regions saw the necessity to create the IG Councils to foster inspiration to build opportunity for young and old together. Our community often creates siloes for youth and elders, creating rifts and stereotypes instead of friendships. Older adults are often isolated, while younger generations have the need for mentors and building social strengths beyond their peer relationships. Providing opportunities for new friendships, mentorships, etc., are a way to reduce isolation in older adults, increase empathy amongst generations, and overall create a sense of community.
Patricia: Tell a bit about your background that brings you to the role of Coordinator of San Diego’s Intergenerational Council.
Jennifer: I have been the IG Coordinator for the North Central and East Regions of the County for over two years now, and have run the IG Council for almost that whole time. Before I came to work at the County, I spent two years in a very rural area of Kenya with the Peace Corps. My background is in public health, but I have realized how important age-inclusive programs are to fostering a sense of belonging in a community. In Kenya, I never thought much about how things were ‘intergenerational,’ because a sense of community was already there, built into everyday life. Age was not so much a barrier to living as it was an asset. People lived near their families, near their grandparents, learning and interacting with each other daily. In America, we often don’t have that luxury of living near our grandfamilies, and we have to make more of a concerted effort to do so. Learning about new ways and ideas to bring people together has been a wonderful journey for me.
Patricia: What do you see/hope in the future for the IG? What do you need to fulfill that dream?
Jennifer: My hope is that all the attendees create amazing and sustainable programs that intentionally connect different generations to learn from each other, and overall creating a County that is age-friendly, and a place where people are excited to grow old. To fulfill this dream, there needs to be champions- people that are passionate about it. The goal of intergenerational efforts is not to create more work. The goal is for people and organizations to look at programs through an age-inclusive lens. For example, how can I make this program more enriching? Would it be beneficial for there to be more than one generation here? Can they help and encourage each other learn? The IG effort is an exercise in being open-minded to new possibilities and new people.
Patricia: What else should readers know about the Intergenerational Council?
Jennifer: There is always room for improvement and for change in anything. New ideas are constantly challenging what we think we know and the ideas that we have, but working together to find new ways to create change, keep up with technology and resources, and understand the needs of the population keeps us going.
Patricia: Where/when are Intergenerational Council meetings held in SD? Web site for info?
Jennifer: There are two IG Councils in San Diego- one in North County and one in East County. See our website here.
The East County IG Council meets on the first Wednesday every other month (Feb, Apr, Jun, Aug, Oct, Dec) from 2:00pm-3:30pm at the La Mesa Adult Enrichment Center. Contact Jennifer.firstname.lastname@example.org.
The North County IG Council meets during the alternating months. Contact Martha at Martha.email@example.com.