Our Story: Living (well through) Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise


Iowa State University Extension and Outreach programs for health and well-being are designed to help Iowa become the healthiest state in the nation. The Living (well through) Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise Program — known as LIFE — introduces older adults to exergaming, video games that integrate game play with physical activity. Younger adults (age 16 and older) serve as LIFE trainers for the older adult participants. Iowa State researchers are evaluating the LIFE program in 21 rural Iowa counties with funding from the Rural Health and Safety Education Competitive Program of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

The following comments are from LIFE staff, trainers and participants in Corning (Adams County).

Barb Fuller, an ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition and health specialist, coordinates the LIFE program in Corning. Barb says:

The LIFE program … really is bringing young adult trainers and older adults together in a really fun environment. They’re getting some fitness, they’re getting some exercise, and they get a chance to maybe experience older people (for the younger trainers), and the older people get to experience having classes taught by younger trainers. So it’s that really intergenerational piece. They’re having a lot of fun together.

Russell Hein is the LIFE fitness trainer at Alegent Creighton Health Wellness Center in Corning. Russell says:

What inspires me about older adults is that they’ve come and they’ve lived so much as it is, that if I can give them a little bit something more, that makes me want to do my best for them, no matter what it is.

Blaine Williams is a LIFE volunteer trainer and high school student. Blaine says:

It gives me the opportunity to talk to older people and to share their experiences and have fun with them, and it gives me the chance to work on my teaching abilities.

Marilyn Shellenberg, LIFE participant, says:

Blaine was a lot of fun to have around. He fit in really well with the group. He worked well with Russell. We were very fortunate to have Blaine as part of the LIFE program.

Carol Cooney, LIFE participant, says:

They make us feel important. They make us feel like we can do anything.

Anna Ruth Hardisty, LIFE participant, says:

I think Russell ought to teach all of them because he’s good with the ladies.

Russell Hein says:

The group is huge into the bowling game. Initially when the program first started, there was maybe one strike and 10 gutter balls. Well now it has switched to 10 strikes and one gutter ball. So they were clapping and giving each other high fives and hugs when they do really well. For me, you know, that’s pretty cool to see the team support and everything like that. The team building is huge.

Diane Weston, LIFE participant, says:

The reason I would recommend this to a friend — it’s something that everybody can do.

Carol Cooney says:

You get to meet different people and you get to learn some of this modern stuff.

Marilyn Shellenberg says:

It’s great companionship, it’s great exercise, it’s not hard on your body. It is fun.

Russell Hein says:

What I like best about the life program is seeing their faces when they achieve something really awesome. I hear more people say soon as they walk out of here, ‘Thanks, that was a great day. I didn’t know I could do that.’ So you’re going to show some improvement, which is going to be awesome for you.

Barb Fuller says:

Extension and Outreach and the LIFE program are a natural fit. We do bring the research of the university to the people in a fun, interactive atmosphere, with physical activity and socialization. And it’s a great opportunity for rural Iowa to participate.

Get Involved

For more information about the Living (well through) Intergenerational Fitness and Exercise Program, LIFE, contact Sarah L. Francis, Iowa State University assistant professor and ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist, slfranci@iastate.edu or 515-294-1456.