Merrill Coulson, 77, left, holds Oliver Bates, 7 months, while Kathy Kendall, 82, right, plays with his hands during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Merrill Coulson, 77, left, holds Oliver Bates, 7 months, while Kathy Kendall, 82, right, plays with his hands during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

There’s no quiet time or age barriers in this play group

Old and young play together at Seniors & Sprouts. “It’s energizing … stimulating. It fills a void.”

LYNNWOOD — Balls bounce. Voices shriek and coo. Toys scatter everywhere.

It seems to have all the makings of an aspirin commercial.

But it’s the Wednesday morning playdate for Seniors & Sprouts.

About a dozen parents and nannies bring their kids to Pacifica Senior Living, a cottage-style community with assisted living and memory-care quarters.

For an hour, the generations mix it up. Chattering, playing or just watching.

“It’s happy time,” said resident Kathy Kendall, 82.

The youngsters toddle around the oldsters, many of whom use wheelchairs. Which makes them just the right height for cavorting with the small fry.

“It really takes on a life of its own,” said Jennifer Nolan, Pacifica marketing coordinator.

Interaction is more about body language than conversation. The babies and the elders, despite their ages and stages, know a friendly face when they see it.

This is real-time, live-in-the-moment for these kindred spirits born generations apart. It’s not about making memories. Many in the room, at both ends of the life cycle, won’t remember it minutes or years later.

“What matters is the love, the ball back and forth, and that kind of thing,” Nolan said. “It is energizing. It’s stimulating. It fills a void in them.”

Aging adults often deal with depression, boredom and loneliness in addition to health issues that limit their mobility, independence and cognizance. Studies have shown that the intergenerational engagement benefits young and old.

Seniors & Sprouts started about six months ago.

Ralph Oberstadt, 88, hands a beach ball to Alexia Klauber, 1, during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Ralph Oberstadt, 88, hands a beach ball to Alexia Klauber, 1, during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Nolan said she received an email from Seattle nanny Megan Fine asking to bring some babies to see residents.

“I was like, ‘Hell, yes,’ ” she said.

A few nannies showed up, and posted it on Facebook. Moms showed up, and sometimes even dads. They brought toys.

The flow is organic. There isn’t a set agenda, other than at some point to go around the room for introductions. Residents are recognized by name and former occupation: war veteran, teacher, homemaker, bookkeeper and engineer.

Hillary Klauber comes weekly with her daughters, 1-year-old Alexia and Juliana, 6, to expand their social network.

“It’s fun for the kids to see different ages,” the Bothell mom said. “There are so many things geared toward kids or just for moms or mommy groups. When I was a kid, we would go visit senior centers so it was important to me. And it’s fun to be able to chat with the other moms.”

Parents, toddlers and Pacifica Senior Living residents gather during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Parents, toddlers and Pacifica Senior Living residents gather during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Juliana, a home-schooled first-grader, reads books aloud and leads games.

“I like playing ball with them,” she said.

If anyone is running the show, it’s this bubbly red-haired girl.

“I like watching her,” Kendall said.

She was hesitant to join the weekly group.

“At first I was (wondering), do I really want to do this?” said Kendall, a retired elementary teacher.

Now she wouldn’t miss the chance to hang out with the younger crowd and bounce a baby or two on her lap.

“These kids are fantastic,” she said.

Ralph Oberstadt, 89, kept Juliana on her toes with his ball tossing skills. The session was a way for him to meet new friends of all ages.

“I just moved in three days ago,” he said.

Everett nanny Shelah Shackelford brings 8-month-old Henry to mingle with the seniors.

“Incorporating all age groups brings joy to everyone,” she said. “More senior homes should do this.”

After hearing that the man dozing in the back, Keith Langeberg, 97, was a military veteran, Shackelford made a point for Henry to meet him.

“Thank you for your service,” she told him.

Dorris Johnson, 93, plays catch with Jaxson Bates, 3, during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Dorris Johnson, 93, plays catch with Jaxson Bates, 3, during the Seniors & Sprouts program at Pacifica Senior Living in Lynnwood. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Assisted living resident Duane Schlaman, 86, who ran marathons into his 70s, sat back and watched the action, unless it came to him.

“Hi cutie,” he said to a toddler walking by.

The tot shot him a knowing smile.

“I love kids, as long as I don’t have to change their diapers,” Schlaman said. “Those days have passed.”

The sessions are the perfect length of time.

“After an hour the babies and toddlers are going ‘waaa’ and the old people are going, ‘Take me back,’ ” Nolan said.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

To go

Seniors & Sprouts meets at 10 a.m. Wednesdays at Pacifica Senior Living, 18625 60th Ave. W., Lynnwood.

Youngsters must be accompanied by an adult.

More info: 425-771-7700

Talk to us

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