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2018 Transformative Learning Conference

March 8–9, 2018

Oklahoma City, OK


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Reflections of a Fitness-Based Intergenerational Experience

Friday, March 9, 2018 at 3:30 PM–4:00 PM CST
Young Ballroom D

Participation in intergenerational learning projects builds a bridge between students and older adults. Positive interactions between these two groups encourages understanding and empathy, ultimately reducing ageism associated with negative misconceptions and prejudices between generations. In the US, individuals age 65 and over are the fastest growing segment of the population. Along with this increase in population size, individuals are living longer and the need for quality fitness programs designed for this age group is growing. Students in Kinesiology programs need an opportunity to apply acquired health related skills within this population. Intergenerational fitness programs meet this need by joining students and seniors in a professional fitness environment focused on the health of the older adult community. The Center for Active Living and Learning (CALL), provides students an opportunity to engage in real-life experiences related to exercise and health promotion for older adults. Through these personal interactions, students expand on classroom based knowledge and develop positive attitudes towards older adults. Seniors learn to implement healthy living skills while students transform their perceptions and become advocates for senior health. This project will look at the transformational journey of three students as they reflect on their experience with the CALL intergenerational fitness program.


Practical experiences facilitate learning and inspire passion, ultimately expanding on student’s classroom learning experience. Participation in intergenerational service-learning projects builds bridges between students and older adults; promoting a transformation of student’s views. Studies indicate intergenerational experiences improve students’ attitudes towards older adults while also providing needed services to enhance the quality of life of the senior community (Munoz Alcon, 2016; Powers, Gray, & Garver, 2013). Giving students an opportunity to become familiar with older adults eases age related anxieties and contributes to the student’s overall learning process (Hutchinson et al., 2010). By creating environments for positive interactions between these two groups; ageism associated with negative misconceptions and prejudices between the generations is reduced (Francis, 2014; Hutchinson, Fox, Laas, Matharu, & Urzi, 2010).

Fitness students that have not had previous encounters working with older adults may view them as weak, frail, and incapable of exercise. Intergenerational fitness programs introduce college students to seniors and provide a space for them to engage on a professional level. As our society rapidly ages, many graduates of the Kinesiology program will work in settings with older adults. The US Census Bureau (2016) estimates the population of adults age 65 and over is currently 66.8 million and the 85+ age group is expected to triple by 2040. Oklahoma has seen a 23.4% increase of older adults within the last decade and this number is also predicted to rise. The need for quality fitness programs designed for this age group is growing and is necessary to help seniors maintain vitality, independence, and performance of daily activities.

Programs that encourage cardiovascular health, balance, strength and independent daily living, play an instrumental factor in fitness in late life. An additional benefit of these programs is increased adherence to fitness classes; some participants attend for the social aspect, peer support, or the overlap of the two (Hernandez and Gonzalez (2008). Encouraging college student’s involvement in the community, particularly in the health and fitness area is beneficial to everyone involved (Flora, P., & Faulkner, G., 2006). Fitness classes lead by students provide quality health information and a safe place for seniors to exercise.

The Center for Active Living and Learning (CALL), promotes intergenerational health and fitness by providing UCO students an opportunity to engage in real-life experiences related to exercise and health promotion with older adults. This program fulfills the need for high-quality senior fitness programming and facilitates student engagement. Students learn how to design safe effective fitness classes from instructors and evidence-based fitness programs. Applying classroom knowledge in this setting, further develops health related skills and stimulates deeper learning. As students and participants build bonds, they teach each other. Seniors learn to implement healthy living skills while students improve their perceptions and become advocates for senior health. Through these personal interactions and reflection, students develop a deeper understanding which contributes to lifelong transformation.

This project will look closer at the transformational journey of three students; their background, program experience, and personal reflection of participation in the CALL intergenerational fitness program.


Administration on Aging. (2016). A profile of older Americans: 2016. Retrieved from 

U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplement; Population Estimates; and American Community Survey: 2016. Retrieved from

Flora, P., & Faulkner, G. (2006). Physical activity: An innovative context for intergenerational programming. Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 4(4), 63–74. Retrieved from

Francis, S. L., Margrett, J. A., Hoerr, K., Peterson, M. J., Scott, A., Franke, W. D. (2014). Intergenerational service learning program improves aging knowledge and expectations and reduces ageism in younger adults. Journal of Youth Development, 9, (3).

Hutchinson, P., Fox, E., Laas, A., Matharu, J., & Urzi, S. (2010). Anxiety, outcome expectancies, and young people’s willingness to engage in contact with the elderly. Educational Gerontology, 36, 1008–1021. Retrieved from

Hernandez, C., & Gonzalez, M. (2008). Effects of intergenerational interaction on aging. Educational Gerontology, 34, 292–305. Retrieved from

Munoz Alcon, A. I., (2016), Who learns from whom? Building up intergenerational bridges through service learning. Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 228, 470-475. doi:10.1016/j.sbspro.2016.07.072 

Powers, M., Gray, M., Garver, K., (2013): Attitudes Toward Older Adults: Results from a Fitness-Based Intergenerational Learning Experience, Journal of Intergenerational Relationships, 11:1, 50-61. doi:10.1080/15350770.2013.755067

Format of Presentation

30-Minute Roundtable Session

Conference Thread(s)

Critically Reflecting in Transformative Learning

Primary Presenter

Catherine Patrick, University of Central Oklahoma

Secondary Presenters

Antonio Harris, University of Central Oklahoma
Madison Kaiser, University of Central Oklahoma