“Before interviewing my participant I had many stereotypes of how they lived.” – Student
Words can only mean so much. It’s the feeling behind those words that has the ability to touch someone, move someone and be moved. This is the core reason why the students composed heartfelt and engaging journals that elaborated their experience partaking in this Age-Friendly project. Through Their Eyes taught the Brock University students to realize that age is not just a number, but rather a series of experiences that makes a person who they are. This project mainly employed the unique learning method that combined classroom instruction and community service. It’s more commonly referred to as service-learning or experiential education. Service-learning incorporates several branches, which include academic study, community involvement and critical reflection. Brock University continues to promote service-learning for its great academic success. Brock also has a Serving-Learning Resource Centre that works together with faculty, staff, community partners and students to make sure that the courses are of highest quality. The Service-Learning Resource Centre generously granted $1500 to help support this Age-Friendly Project. The link for the Service-Learning Resource Centre can be found here.
Why use Service Learning?
This form of learning not only offers students the opportunity to apply this method in the classroom, but also to have a positive effect in their community that encourages a deeper understand of community, civic engagement, and personal responsibility. By going beyond the actual university and interrelating with the public, the students develop skills and abilities that are only obtained through real life interactions. Service learning serves as a benefit to not only the students but to the community as well. The students are compassionately involved and it is through interactions like these that help the community feel bonded together.
What are Reflection Journals and why ask students to write them?
Reflection journals are a way students can write about their own experiences of learning and record how it is changing their beliefs. Reflection journals are a key component of service learning. The journals are great tools that help students observe and associate their experience with in-class teachings. The journals also help students track the progress they have made and notice gaps in knowledge that they can later improve on.
As the project slowly came to an end, the students put together personal reflections on their glorious journey through it all. The students’ journals focused on these 3 areas: their academic enhancement, civic engagement, and above all, their personal growth from the beginning of this project all the way to its end. This brief compilation of their work and touching subscripts are only a small facet of not only their effort, but their overall exponential development throughout the semester.
Students also submitted their final reflections in video format in addition to maintaining a reflective journal throughout the semester. Each of the videos provided a glimpse into their overall experience with the Through Their Eyes Project, focusing on the areas of personal growth, civic engagement, and academic enhancement. The submissions were both inspiring and heartwarming, and though we are unable to display all of the incredible submissions that were received, we are pleased to present a few for the public’s perusal.
The students wrote compelling entries that described how they grew as individuals throughout the course in their reflection journals. These sections helped the students’ educational learning mesh with their inner thoughts and really grasp the meaning of what it meant to “become old”. Their reflections allowed them to ponder things that we students seldom do; the aging of their own parents/grandparents in a more realistic light and a building interest in the quality of how theirs would turn out. Moreover, what is evident in these entries is that the students personally grew in acknowledging how necessary it is it to recognize the needs of the senior communities that live around us. Wellness is truly dependent on the relationships shared between individuals within a community, regardless of age.
“With all the restrictions we have in life, I think that one of the most important things I learned in lecture today is that place matters! Place is so many different things that includes one very significant component and that is the subjective sense of place. How someone feels about the location around [them] is a very critical component that can change the overall wellbeing of residents in even the most privileged of neighbo[u]rhoods.” – Student
Unlike the first interview, the drive to the second interview was calm and exciting, having done the first interview and getting to know our participant, gave me a sense of ease going into the second interview. However, I was a bit worried about how the interview process was going to go as our participant was unable to walk for long distances or take the bus due to her previous stroke. Another concern was finding out that driving my car without participant could not be possible due to insurance issues and liability. Due to this we had to call our participant shortly before conducting the interview and tell her we could no longer go out for coffee, this made me feel nervous and worried as to what she would say, I thought this would foster a sense of uneasiness and mistrust between the researcher and the participant. However, when I called our participant and offered her to bring her coffee and sitting on the picnic tables instead of driving to a coffee shop she was very enthusiastic and did not mind the change of plans. This came as a surprise as I found that sometimes I overthink certain situations and that more often than not people will be understanding and there are other options. Further along in the interview this became even more evident when our participant said, “Wherever you go, there’s always another opinion.”
Furthermore, the interview also made me realize the importance of interaction as people age. For example, when we went to the Avondale, she mentioned that she knew the staff’s schedule and usually came to the Avondale after 4 pm to talk to her favorite employee. This was something important to her because she was able to talk about her day to someone. It made me realize that sometimes a simple smile or asking someone how their day was can be enough to make their day. Lastly, our participant taught me three very important lessons, firstly, it is important to live in the moment and live day by day, if there is a bump in the road it is important to adapt to change she stated “I have everything here. It’s all about your attitude. It’s about your ability to conceptualize and adaptability to change.”. She also taught me the importance of laughter for you well being, on several occasion she mentioned that laughter has helped her cope after her fall “If I didn’t laugh every day, I think I would die.”. She also taught me that old age does not mean everything is debilitating and harder to accomplish, although she suffered her fall she mentioned that once you get older you see the world differently. Everything becomes more clear, and your outlook on life changes she ended off the interview by saying “Wisdom is power.” – Student, Fall 2016
This age-friendly cities project gave students the opportunity to utilize their academic learning practically, and by doing this, gave them a sense of responsibility and satisfaction. Enhancing learning beyond the walls of a classroom is something that the students, instructors, and community all benefit from. The students were able to use the skills they were learning from other courses as well. One student wrote a touching entry about how learning about community health really allowed them to understand how intricate a community is: “As mentioned in lecture 1, cultures are like icebergs; communities are also like icebergs, we only see a little from outside but there are [a] whole bunch of other things happening.”
“The age-friendly project contributes toward community and community needs. In a class that I’m taking now called Program Planning and Evaluation, we were able to conduct needs assessment for Brock University students to see how they deal with positive/negative coping, stress management and how to feel connected with the school. We were able to get responses from students on what they thought and felt. It is nice to see how both classes can be combined overall to see what can be done for community evaluation.” – Student (quoted from above picture)
“Having good relationships and a health[y] community is a HUGE aspect of having overall quality health.”
“What I am learning makes me evaluate every situation about diverse groups and health.”
“The fundamentals that we have been taught in this class will help me to be able to make a bigger impact someday.”
“Throughout public health we have learned that social determinants of health influence our health outcomes.”
This had to have been the best part of the journals the students wrote. Civic engagement is really where both their personal growth and academic enhancement wove together and became more refined. Through Their Eyes gave the students an opportunity to conduct field interviews and really see the life through the eyes of their participants. One student even wrote that conducting these interviews was a truly amazing experience and another remarked below that it was unforgettable!
“It felt like I was in a room filled with my family and a bunch of grandparents that just wanted to shower you with love.”
“These are things that I never realized before but now notice little changes can make life so much simpler for the older population.”
“I want to be an active member in my community and create change that is best for all populations.”
“In order to make and support the necessary changes it is important to create partnerships and collaborations with people in the community.”
“Today made me realize that I want to live in a community that’s accessible, especially in my older age. After talking to the participant, it opened my eyes that living in an area where resources (such as the grocery store or pharmacy) are close by is something that is important. I want to be able to reach these places when I’m in need, especially when I’m older and getting around can be tougher. Also, my participant mentioned that she likes talking to some of the ladies in the common area and that made me think of what kind of community member I will be. I would like to be a community member who is active and able to have a say in my community. I don’t want to just live in my community; I want to be part of it!” – Student, Fall 2016