Playgroup celebrates 25 years

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Celebration time . . . (Back from left)Stacey Curry, Murray Mercer, Lauris Polson. Ainslie Mitchell, (middle from left) Doug Wallace and his grandson Morgan Wal lace (3), Janet Lindsay, (children in front from left) Grace Malafu (3), Violet Milmine (2), Kenzie Gibson (4) and Eva Curry (2) celebrate 25 years of Iona Home and Hospital Playgroup. PHOTO: GUS PATTERSON

It was a 25th birthday party, but the guests of honour were either much younger or older.

In 1994 Iona Home and Hospital hosted its first playgroup, bringing mothers and children into the home to interact with the residents.

Last week, the playgroup celebrated its 25th birthday with speeches from several people involved in the running of the group and a morning tea.

The playgroup was started by Lauris Polson and Ainslie Mitchell, who are still involved today.

Mrs Mitchell said the idea from the beginning was to promote intergenerational connection.

“Lauris and I were visiting one day and there were a lot of mothers and children around,” she said.

“It brightened up the place, and we thought the residents would love regular contact.”

It helped show children the values of the older generation, and the residents enjoyed the playfulness and joy the children brought.

“Just because you are in a rest-home, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to have contact with the community.”

After securing funding from the Timothy Blair Trust, the group grew rapidly.

By 1999, the roll had hit 30 children – and there was a waiting list to get on.

Mrs Mitchell said there had been a lot of work put in over the years by members – whether it was setting up and packing up the toys, or providing entertainment.

She singled out Iona Home and Hospital activity co-ordinator Diane McCone as someone who had been there the whole time and instrumental in the success the group enjoyed.

Mrs McCone organises the activities each week, including musical items, dance groups and even earthquake training.

She believed the group was possibly one of a kind in New Zealand, and almost certainly the oldest.

“It has been a real success, and it has taken a lot of goodwill to keep it going this long,” she said.

“We have noticed recently there are a lot of mothers who work so it isn’t as easy to get them in each week, but there is still a demand for it.

“Children and music are very important for the residents, even if they can’t move very well, they still enjoy listening.”

Stacey Curry has been taking her children to the Iona playgroup for 10 years.

“I’m on to the last one of my four kids now, but it has been really good,” she said.

“It helps children reduce the differences between them and the elderly.

“My older kids still talk about when they used to go.”