“If you build it, they will come” is an iconic line from the movie Field of Dreams. The folks at Londonderry Village may have been thinking of that famous command when they built an intergenerational playground that superbly blends joy, family, community, and memories into one sweet package.
Franklin and Lucille Shearer live at Londonderry Village in Palmyra, Pa. When they moved there in 2017, they decided they wanted to invest their time and resources in something that would benefit the entire community – and their families.
Londonderry, located about an hour west of Philadelphia and just a few minutes from the legendary Hershey Park, features independent living, assisted living, and nursing care. It also includes several Green House cottages.
Based on that premise, the Shearers helped fund and design an imaginative and inspirational intergenerational playground on the campus that everyone – no matter their age or abilities – can enjoy together while visiting family members at the community.
Building such a comprehensive playground is the perfect project for the Shearers; Franklin enjoyed a long career as an executive at Hershey Park, while Lucille volunteered her time and expertise at her children’s school as they were growing up. Through her work at the school, she learned about safety surfaces, equipment, and other elements that go into making an engaging playground.
The Shearers credit the leadership at Londonderry and their vision for giving them the opportunity to shape such an important area for the entire Palmyra community.
“Elders living in institutional settings often find themselves cut off from many of the normal activities of community living, including intergenerational activities with children,” Londonderry Village CEO Jeff Shireman said. “Having a playpark with equipment and points of interest that appeal to seniors and children alike is a great way to combat that institutional isolation and promote and enhance relationships.”
Fostering an environment where children can interact with elders in fun and meaningful ways is a great way to them perceive older adults in a positive light, Shireman added.
The playground packs a triple punch – providing utility, beauty, and a space that encourages social gatherings. The walkways, butterfly garden, pavilion, gazebo, and fountain offer plenty of options to play, relax, exercise, reflect and visit and build memories for all ages.
The Shearers knew it was important to design the playground from both the children’s and elders’ viewpoints. Everything had to be accessible, easy to get in and out of, safe, and fun. As a result, there are multiple play structures, a soft, level surface that can handle wheelchairs and walkers, a face-to-face swing – and even a zipline.
The zipline was “straight out of our grandchildren’s wish list,” they said. Yet the zipline appeals to people of all ages, too. Even a 90-year-old resident took a turn on it, they said.
And there’s more to come. Construction of a play area geared to children ages two to five is expected to be completed later this summer, giving the Londonderry playground even more street cred
The Green House Project is filled with admiration for the playground and the Shearers’ insight and devotion to the project. Just like the Kevin Costner character in the famed movie, they took a wild dream and turned it into a viable reality. What a blessing!
May the Londonderry Village intergenerational playground serve as an inspiration to other senior communities to build fun and vibrant spaces that enhance the lives of staff, elders, their families, and the surrounding community.