• Intergenerational Walking Article_Jennifer Rafferty – Copy

Intergenerational Walking

 March 11, 2019
Posted by NWT Recreation and Parks Association

As a kid growing up in the west end of Toronto, I remember walking with my Omi (a twist on Oma, which is German for “Grandma”) and her poodle, Jenna.  Walking was a part of my Omi’s daily routine and we would often walk through schoolyards and over to the large city park that was near her neighbourhood.  No matter the season, she was dedicated to her walks and if she was taking care of me that day, I would (sometimes begrudgingly) tag along.

NWTRPA Active Communities Coordinator, Jennifer Rafferty
at the age of 7 with her Omi.

Although often lost on me, those walks did more than serve as a means to get some exercise.  It was a lesson in relationships.  Strolling and greeting neighbours, stopping to connect with a fellow dog walker, ducking into a local business—these were all possibilities on those walks.  It was an opportunity to learn how to connect with people and see my grandmother’s neighbourhood in a different way.  It was also a great time for Omi and I to share stories. 

I have a vivid memory of walking on a fresh spring day and having the hiccups.  Frustrated that they weren’t going away, my Omi turned to me and said, “For every hiccup after this, I will give you ten cents.”  Excited at the prospect of making some extra cash, I awaited the next burst of air. Nothing came. After a few minutes, my Omi declared that the same thing had worked on her when she was a kid, and I could detect a bit of satisfaction in her voice.

These walks were not only lessons in relationships with people, but also with animals.  I could watch Jenna sniff around and investigate her surroundings, interact with other dogs, and learn the responsibilities of pet ownership.  My Omi and I would watch birds, squirrels, and other local animals in their environments and observe the plants, organic matter, and waters that flowed through them.

The value of walking with my Omi on the surface may seem pretty basic—fresh air, a bit of exercise— but sharing some time and exploring spaces with my grandmother added a lot of value to my life and had a positive impact on me.  Having lived in the north for more than six years, I have witnessed many times the beautiful moments that are created when we participate in activities that include several generations.  The NWTRPA supports improved access to physical activity opportunities, the connection of generations, and the transmission of knowledge, language, and culture through programs like the Active Healthy Intergenerational Connections program, the Elders in Motion program, and Walk to Tuk.

Did you walk with different generations during Walk to Tuk? We’d love to hear your stories and why you think it is important to walk with people of different ages. Send your story to stremblay@nwtrpa.org