UCF program pairs kids, seniors for play time

By Julie Gargotta, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 12, 2017, 10:48 PM EDT

A University of Central Florida program is the first-of-its-kind, studying what happens when octogenarians — and children — play and interact.

  • Grow and Play Program at UCF
  • Octogenarians, children interact
  • Gets seniors moving, changes aging perspectives

“You give each other high fives, hug each other, cheer for each other," said Patricia Coleman. “I think it’s very good interaction for older adults.”

The 87-year-old, the oldest in the group which meets bi-weekly, said she loves seeing the children pick up games of her youth, like jacks or kick the can.

“You end up laughing, the children are wonderful," she said. "They’re so nice, and kind and loving with us.”

Six-year-old Megan Perry, the youngest in the group, said that the 80-year-old participants remind her of her grandparents, who have since passed.

“It’s good to have them here," she said, "because they're fun."

“I think it was everything we thought it would be in terms of creating community," said Jennifer Tucker with UCF. “For us, the research is exciting. It will allow us to document the impact of the program.”

Grow and Play is led by therapy students, who study intergenerational activity. Early on, they realized the simple play sessions, held at a church in Longwood, had a deep impact: getting older adults moving and sharing their favorite childhood games, and children changing their perspectives on aging.

Soon-to-be first grader Perry came thinking she’d be running circles around the octogenarians.

“They don’t really do anything, they just lounge around," she said she thought.

Instead, Perry couldn't believe how they moved.

“Old people doing more little kid things and being active," she said. “I was like, surprised.”

If the program is successful, UCF hopes to bring to other communities.