Over The Lawn, Through The Wicket

“Be careful, sometimes I forget my sippy-cup on the grass,” a wee girl flatly stated to her new student.

Fun for all ages -- together.

The elderly student, securing his cup’s lid, replied, “I’ve done that before.”

The emboldened girl whispered conspiratorially, “Also, I get so excited playing, I forget to go to the bathroom.”

The fellow chuckled, and in a gracious tone said, “Been known to do that, too.”

The little girl continued, “I cry sometimes when I don’t win.”

The fellow nodded, “That’d be me as well.”

“You don’t have to worry, though,” said the young lady, “I won’t beat you too awful bad.”

She felt the warmth of the wrinkled, soft hand.

“OK, now show me how to play this game,” said the older gentleman.

In an effort to reduce “age silo-ing,” the city of Delray Beach Park and Recreation in Florida is creating multi-generational activities at Veteran’s Park, located on the Intracoastal Waterway.

The park is already a “natural” draw for groups — Palm Beach County’s lawn-bowling facility and an elaborate outdoor playground are housed there, as well as a building that — thanks to Recreation Site Supervisor Samantha Roland — is bucking the demographic trend to convert community facilities to senior centers.

Building A Case

This society has a tendency to separate people by age groups. The media and other sources perpetuate this tendency by portraying stereotypical images of both the young and the aging.

As a result, “wee ones” and “oldsters” do not have many opportunities to interact, or to learn about each other firsthand.

As reported by the National Council on Aging, many community centers are adding programs to underscore the critical role senior centers play in helping millions of older adults stay healthy, involved and independent in their homes and communities. Roland has been bringing in Kindermusik, Zumba and belly-dancing to augment her tai chi, balance and breathing and bridge classes.

“The ultimate, intentional goal for these programs has been the creation of a supportive yet transformative environment for the reflection of intergenerational well-being,” says Roland.

She continues, “The spaces are being arranged to create harmony and balance, and to use energy in the most positive way. We also want to promote a smooth flow of activity between our wonderful indoor space and our beautiful park setting.”

From lawn bowling, shuffleboard and super-sized croquet, to wellness classes that take advantage of the inspiring view and topographical features, the community is able to enjoy all the park has to offer.

Randy Eady, an instructor at the park, an intergenerational rehabilitation specialist, and a member of the International Council on Active Aging, is helping guide this effort. As an affiliate of Generations United and a “Generations Manager,” he’s built plenty of bridges across age-spans and facilitated a better understanding of the diverse makeup of older, active adults.

In one instance, he created a “mini-golf barefoot path” near a senior-living center in a small resort village in Germany so grandparents and grandchildren could interact in the outdoors. He also designed the first intergenerational balance, coordination and fall-prevention program in Florida, now in progress at the ACTS Retirement Communities in Boca Raton.

The Lawn Sport Triathlon

After hosting a “Sport as Art” event earlier this year and seeing the popularity of super-sized croquet, Roland and Eady realized an intergenerational-format Lawn Sport Triathlon would be the perfect way to showcase the park’s facilities, and underscore the benefits of bringing generations together. The lineup included super-sized croquet, Disc Golf and lawn bowling.

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