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.
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?
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.