Francis Glynn has been in the skilled nursing industry for 40 years and has nine grandchildren he loves to play with. Nowadays he gets to play with them at work.

Glynn is the director of environmental services for Londonderry Village in Palmyra, PA, a Green House Project facility that last year dedicated a playground on its campus, just a couple hundred feet from the Green House residences. Glynn’s grandkids call it PopPop’s Playground.

“I have ridden the zipline, I have been on the slide,” said Glynn, who started in the industry 40 years ago at age 17. “I am there regularly with them.”

Begun in 2018 as a plan for a small playground similar to backyard units, the project blossomed when residents Franklin and Lucille Shearer offered a donation sizable enough to fund a fully installed and equipped structure that could be used by kids and senior citizens.

The area includes a zipline, standard swings, and swings that are wheelchair accessible, a rubberized safety surface, a circular path, a firepit, water fountain, butterfly garden, picnic tables and gazebo. It is used most on the weekend when families are most likely to visit. But during the week it is also a destination for residents to walk to, either on their own or with the help of staff.

Glynn said the more expensive surfacing is key to intergenerational play because of its accessibility for all mobilities. 

“Residents love to view from a distance to watch children play. They love it — they love getting out on a nice day but when you can introduce them to assisting with play, such as pushing a child on a swing or verbally encouraging a child to go down a slide.That’s where you create the intergenerational play,” he said. “That’s why we made the decision to go with the rubberized surface.”

Londonderry Village CEO Jeff Shireman said the project was exciting from the start.

“It was wholly consistent with our care culture,” he said. “The whole concept of an intergenerational playground really reverberates and resonates with a lot of the elements of the Green House model. The concept of establishing a place for both recreation and intergenerational programming probably can be replicated in many settings.”

Fun and more on the playground

There needs to be space, of course, and a playground done properly is not cheap, but Shireman and Glynn said the investment has been well worth it. As well as the enjoyment residents and their families get from it, the playground is a natural recruiting tool, said Glynn. Would-be residents can see kids and seniors alike playing at the playground when they take tours.

CEO Jeff Shireman rides the zipline.
CEO Jeff Shireman rides the zipline.

There has been no need to add staff or duties to existing staff, the executives said, and more programming involving the playground is in the future as the final equipment details are installed. The play area is open to the neighborhood, free and with no screening, Shireman said. A father from the surrounding area recently told him the playground was “blowing up on Facebook.”

“We are against ageism,” said Shireman. “What we want is for (kids) to experience the company of senior citizens so they can get a positive view of aging.” 

Glynn said of all the construction and remodeling projects he’s been involved with over his career, this one stands out.

“This has been the most rewarding project for me personally,” he said. “Every day I can walk around campus and see a child playing in that playground and then another family member wheeling around a resident and then stopping to watch the children play.”

Should any facility consider adding a playground, Glynn would be ready to cheer it on.

“If this opportunity were to present itself to them, I would give them 100% encouragement to move forward with it,” he said. “It has had such a positive outcome for us as a campus and as a community to see some of the things I’ve seen and hear some of the words I’ve heard from our residents. 

“Don’t pass up the opportunity.”