Intergenerational playgroup offers benefits to both young children and seniors with dementia

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Wichita USD 259’s Parents as Teachers group is bringing together young children and senior citizens.

Every parent wants to make sure their child stays on track. Parents at Teachers (PAT) serves families and their children, birth to age five, to foster growth and development.

“You know that old saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child’? We wanted everybody to see that we are embracing that concept,” said Shannon Benoit, with PAT.

Each month, PAT holds an intergenerational playgroup with seniors at the Wichita Presbyterian Manor.

Amy Watson, Life Enrichment Director for Wichita Presbyterian Manor, said the residents who participate struggle with mild to moderate dementia.

“They don’t remember maybe minute to minute, but they remember how they feel at a certain point in time,” said Watson.

And what they feel interacting with these kids during playgroup is complete and utter joy.

They play, read, and do art projects together. You can see smiles all around the room.

Denise Redmond brings her three grandchildren to the playgroup.

“You see the older adults’ eyes brightening up and you also see the children interacting and their eyes brightening up,” said Redmond.

Parents and grandparents we spoke with said the value of this intergenerational playgroup is immeasurable.

“The social interaction and the emotional skills are very fundamental to his growth and development,” said mom Brianne Goold. Her son is two years old.

Kristine Larson says her two children’s grandparents live far away, so the residents at Presbyterian Manor are like surrogate grandparents to them. She said she’s glad they have a chance to interact with that generation.

Both the children and the seniors benefit. Watson described the reaction of her senior residents.

“Their eyes just light up. We see them become parents again; mommies and daddies,” said Watson. “She may not remember why she has that warm wonderful feeling in her belly, but it lasts with her the rest of the day.”

Right now, the playgroup meets once a month at Wichita Presbyterian Manor. Parents as Teachers hopes to increase that to twice a month before expanding the program to other locations.

Click here for more information about the Wichita School District’s Parents as Teachers program.