4900 Buckley Ave: TTE 2.0

The Through Their Eyes (TTE) project was developed six years ago with support from a Brock University Teaching and Learning Innovation Grant. Since its inception, the project has been a huge success. Today TTE is sustainable, has affected real change to improve the age-friendliness of several Niagara communities, and, most importantly, has enriched the learning and growth of over 250 Brock University students.

The Developing Healthy Communities course and TTE project are transformative for students. Over the years, professor Pauli Gardner has witnessed many students emerge from the experience more knowledgeable, confident, civic-minded, compassionate, and prepared for future employment.

Continuing the TTE project in 2020 brought the unique challenge of COVID-19. Initially, it seemed best to postpone the project, however, after discussions with Niagara Regional Housing–our community partner–it became clear that the TTE project was more important than ever! That’s when the idea for TTE 2.0 was born.

Throughout the course of the pandemic, both seniors and students have experienced isolation and loneliness. When public health guidelines eased to allow older residents to get out more into the community and enjoy outdoor, physically distanced visits during the summer months, many continued to feel anxious and overwhelmed by the circumstances. With concerns that a second wave in the fall would bring strict closures again, the need to help older residents maintain social connections and feel supported in their experience was clear.

Continuing the TTE project meant re-imagining the project and the course. Whereas the original project had students interviewing seniors in person in their homes and in their neighbourhoods, TTE 2.0 saw the field research and in-person interviewing go virtual.

In this new iteration of the project–TTE 2.0–the COVID edition, students and seniors “met” online and over the phone to conduct their work together. There were 10 intergenerational teams for this year’s project involving 10 seniors and 23 Brock University students. While most of the age-friendly assessment interviews remained the same, new questions related to the experience of the pandemic and what could be done to improve this for the residents in the future were added to the interview guide.

Video Presentation Summarizing Through Their Eyes 2.0 Project Findings

The following video provides an overview of the findings from the Through Their Eyes 2.0 project conducted with residents at 4900 Buckley Ave (Buckley Towers) during the Fall of 2020.

Aging Simulation

The aging simulation is an important part of TTE that provides students the unique opportunity to get a “feel” for what it might be like to live into their 80’s and 90’s. While the simulation usually takes place in person during class, the cancellation of in-person classes at Brock meant that students conducted the activities from home.

Students were instructed to collect a variety of materials, including uncooked pasta or beans, tape, gloves, earplugs, blindfolds, glasses, and straws to complete a list of various aging simulation activities. Each activity aimed to create an immersive experience for students that they could learn from and reflect on. Some questions students were asked to reflecte on included:

  • What happened while you were out there?
  • Did you experience any difficulties?
  • Describe your feelings about this experience.
  • What changes did you observe? – about yourself? – about other participants? – about other people responding to you?
  • Does the experience stimulate thoughts about the reactions and behaviors of older individuals who have some form of impairment?
  • Does the experience suggest changes in your feelings or behavior towards aged individuals?

Reflection Journals

Students maintain a journal throughout the semester to reflect on the course and the Through Their Eyes Project. Journals are written in the first person and include three key sections: Personal Growth, Civic Engagement, and Academic Enhancement.

On this page are some powerful excerpts from students that highlight some of the ways the project facilitated deep learning and growth.


I feel confident to make a difference in the community. I have never felt a stronger sense of responsibility to do my part as a citizen to bridge the generation gaps in my society. This course has increased my urge to see a future where age friendly environments flourish. 

I am truly grateful to have had this experience, and to have had a participant as open and positive as ___, as she made the process truly enjoyable. Based on this experience, I think it is so important to make intergenerational connections and to continue on with projects/studies like this. Intergenerational connection allows the opportunity for us to truly learn from one another and make community changes that benefit everyone. This assignment was fantastic first-hand experience in learning from and working alongside older generations and is something that I would like to continue in efforts to further challenge my own, and others’ biases and ideas on aging well.

In my opinion, the through their eyes project was truly a commendable project in assisting to minimize the intergenerational distance that limits both the younger and older population from connecting and possibly achieving an age-friendly community. Through this project, we were able to see both generations learn about each other, further having an impact to break those misplaced stereotypes. It was so easy to tune in and engage with her. Surprisingly, I even found that I had more in common with her than I would have thought. Her sense of humour, her fierce and unyielding personality was admirable to me and did inspire me to stand up for the things I believed in.

I find that when I spend time with my grandmother, the conversation has always been about me. During reading week I felt a desire to learn more about her life, so we met up at a park (sitting a good 6 feet away) and we spent a couple of hours talking about her experiences. I could not believe all of the things she was telling me, about how she struggled through poverty, how she came to Canada, how difficult it was for her to learn the language. It is extremely fascinating to ask her about what she thinks of all the incredible developments that have occurred in her lifetime, about everything that has changed as she grew up. It’s funny because, I think subconsciously, what we have been discussing recently in this course has made an impression on me, and I think that’s why I had the desire to ask my grandmother so many questions that I have never really thought to ask before.

It was our first instinct to say that we learned nothing, and that the interview was useless. After some time passed, we realized that that was not entirely the case, our participant had actually given us a lot of valuable information. Although we initially thought the interview was completely negative, after listening to the recording over again, we noticed many positive things that our participant was saying.

I believe that the most surprising way that I have grown came from the challenges in our interviews. I have learned that not all feedback will be positive, and that is okay. Feedback can be surprising, it can shock you or even make you uncomfortable, but it does not mean it is useless. In many cases, it is the uncomfortable conversations that can be the ones which shed the most light on an issue. The purpose of the Through Their Eyes Project is to examine the age-friendliness of the neighbourhood, and I now believe that our participant gave his honest opinion of the community and its problems, and that the information he gave us is extremely important.

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