Bridging the gap: Wichita bench turns strangers into friends


WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Have you ever wondered what it was like growing up in Wichita in the 1920s?

Thanks to the Blue Bench project, created by Downtown Wichita, people of all ages have an opportunity to see the city through the eyes of those who grew up during that time period.

“It’s all about introducing different generations to each other and creating really authentic connections that probably, normally, wouldn’t ever happen,” said Downtown Wichita Director of Community Development Emily Brookover.

The Blue Bench project invites strangers to sit down and spend 10 minutes with an Oxford Senior Living resident.

“It’s amazing in those 10 minutes how many stories they are able to swap, how much wisdom they are able to exchange and the connections that they make in just a short amount of time,” Brookover said.

Downtown Wichita has created ice-breaker questions to get the conversation started. Some of them include: What’s the worst piece of advice you were ever given? If you could freeze time, what would you do?

Ericka Sauer, 36, began her 10-minute conversation with Wanda Tittsworth, 90, by asking what fashion trends Tittsworth followed when she was younger.

“Practically, everything,” Tittsworth replied. “We wore dresses back then to school.”

Tittsworth also told Sauer about her four children, five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Sauer was amazed by some of Tittsworth’s stories, especially her son’s occupation in Florida.

“My oldest son, when he went to Orlando, was an alligator hunter,” Tittsworth told Sauer.

Sauer said the blue-bench experience is one she would like to do again.

“Oh, it was wonderful! I am sad it’s over already,” Sauer said. “I hope more people show up. It’s a great experience and it benefits everybody.”

Tittsworth said she too enjoyed the experience.

“I think it’s a neat thing to do. For one, for people to be talking together because you go into restaurants and everybody is sitting there with their phone,” Tittsworth said.

Residents from Oxford Senior Living share their stories on the blue bench on Thursdays beginning at 11 a.m. at the ICT Pop-Up Urban Park.

Brookover said Downtown Wichita modeled the blue bench after a green bench project in Canada.

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