During the Fall 2019 term, students in the Developing Healthy Communities course at Brock University worked with residents at the Niagara Ina Grafton Gage Village, located at 413 Linwell Road, to collect research for the Through Their Eyes project. Each team of students partnered with seniors from the residence to gain a better understanding of what makes an age-friendly community through the eyes of the city’s experts–local senior residents.
You can view photos and learn about our aging simulation exercise here.
The Through Their Eyes project includes a component of GIS mapping. ArcGIS offers unique capabilities for applying location-based analytics to the research students conduct during their go-along interviews with senior residents.
Students use ArcGIS technology to mark the areas that senior residents travel to frequently to gather location-based analytics and identify spatial patterns to inform their research. The maps help break down barriers, facilitate collaboration, and leverage the power of spatial analysis to uncover hidden patterns and assess the age-friendliness of the neighbourhood. The data can also be used by project partners to help identify opportunities for improving the health of their local communities.
The students used these maps to pinpoint the domains of an age-friendly community such as the community’s parks and green spaces, transportation routes, and locations of nearby supermarkets, churches, and health services. These maps were also used to plot the routes that the residents mentioned they typically used in order to better understand their community experience from a bird’s eye view.
Video Presentation Summarizing Through Their Eyes Project Findings
This video provides a quick overview of the findings gathered from the Through Their Eyes project conducted at 413 Linwell Road (Niagara Ina Grafton Gage Village).
Reflection journals are a key component of service-learning and provide students an outlet to write about their learning experiences and record how it changes their beliefs. The journals act as a key tool to help students observes and associate their experiences with in-class teachings.
Through Their Eyes reflection journals focused on three areas: academic enhancement, civic engagement, and above all, their personal growth from the beginning of this project all the way to its end. On this page are some powerful excerpts from students that make up only a small facet of the growth and development students underwent throughout the academic semester.
“We stood alongside Madeline as she completed her daily duties she usually partakes in on Fridays. We started off by meeting her at her home, then she drove us to the bank, her friend’s home, two grocery stores, Tim Horton’s and the dollar store. It was nice to spend the day with her because I got to observe how accessible everyday tasks are for the elderly population—this is not something that I often think about. I saw a connection between how accessible our structures are for the general population and how assessible they are for those who need altered services. This really opened my eyes because I realised how much everyone in our communities can benefit from being mindful of things such as placement of accessability buttons, access to elevators, railing assisted sidewalks and walkways, etc. The thing that shocked me the most was how independent Madeline is, and through this I also realised how important social capital is.” – Nina, Student, Brock University
“For this week, I think I experienced a lot of personal growth. The interview was a good learning experience and helped me get rid of pre-conceptions I had about seniors and how they spend their time living in retirement homes. My perspective also changed on retirement homes as an institution. I always thought that retirement homes only consisted of living places, a place to eat and maybe a small area outdoors. However, when I went on the go-along interview I was so surprised to see that this retirement home has a long-term care unit, a bowling alley, library, a place to play bingo and billiards, swimming pool, a physician office, church, etc. Personally, I think a retirement home is a small community because there is so many things in one single area, so that most of these residents do not have to travel far for their leisure time or personal needs. This really changed my perspective of retirement homes and seeing how Florence and other residents were at ease makes me realize that not all seniors are miserable and hate being in retirement homes.” – Riya, Student, Brock University
“Being able to have this experience with Mary truly opened my eyes on how to live a long, healthy, happy life as she does. Mary told us, “life is what you make it” and she said she thinks this applied to living in a community as well. If you don’t make use of all the resources available to you, you might feel lonely, isolated or simply bored. This experience made me realize that the key to a happy, healthy life is to be in a healthy community that fosters accessibility and age-friendly qualities, and that offers many needed resources as you age.” – Hunter, Student, Brock University
Keeping up with tradition, Paula Gardner’s students, community partners, and senior residents from Niagara Ina Grafton Gage Village gathered in December to share and learn about the project findings together. Reflections of understanding and gratitude were accompanied by the sounds of laughter, joy, and tears as, once again, the Through Their Eyes project opened hearts and minds.
A small team of students prepared a video presentation outlining some of the project’s key findings. Paula led the presentation at the community forum to show residents what information had been learned from them about the positive and negative aspects of their community, and opportunities that were identified for change in their community based on the 8 domains of age-friendliness.
Students and seniors were given the opportunity to share reflections with the group about their experience with the project. With moist eyes and hearts filled with gratitude, one thing was clear: Through Their Eyes was a transformative experience for all parties involved. Below is a gallery of images captured at the community forum event.