Application Number: 1
INITIATIVE: What is the title of your initiative?
Empathy Lab: A Mobile Aging Simulation Lab to Reduce Ageism in Age Friendly Communities
RATIONALE: Why was this initiative developed? Briefly describe your vision for this initiative: what changes would you like to see in your community, in the college/university, and for the student experience?
In Canada, seniors are the fastest-growing demographic. It is predicted that in 2036, 10.4 million Canadians will be over the age of 65. In 2006, the World Health Organization began an Age Friendly Cities initiative to help create age-friendly communities that help seniors live active, safe and enjoyable lives. London, Ontario became the first city in Canada to register in the WHO Age Friendly Network. For the past three years, the Age Friendly London Network (AFLN) has worked diligently to create physical and social environments, policies, services and structures to help its aging citizens be healthy, stay involved and contribute meaningfully to their communities. Ageism affects older adults interpersonally, through differential treatment or discrimination. Ageism is propagated by media and reinforced by culture. About 56% of age discrimination towards older adults comes from younger generations. One way of challenging ageist behaviour is through empathy, defined as the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions. The question is: will making people FEEL old, improve their understanding and attitudes towards older adults? The Empathy Lab is a Mobile Aging Simulation Lab developed by undergraduate students in the course Aging Body, offered in the School of Health Studies (SHS), Faculty of Health Sciences at Western University in London, Canada. The Lab consists of 12 simulation stations and 12 different scenarios (characters). The purpose is to allow a participant to experience what it FEELS like to be old; to have vision and hearing problems, arthritis, diminished strength or restricted joint movements. By experiencing how complex age-related changes influence the daily functions of older adults, participants may develop increased empathy, and improve their attitude and interactions with older adults. This application builds on a successful and long-standing service-learning partnership between the AFLN, Western Universityís Student Success Centre, and Dr. Aleksandra Zecevic, an Associate Professor in the SHS. Funding from ReCode will allow us to bring the Empathy Lab into the London-Middlesex community. Our vision is to engage service providers, businesses, students of all ages, and organizations that serve older adults toward a common goal of decreasing ageism in our community. Our innovative proposal builds on existing partnerships, enhances our capacity to address community issues, and will engage at least 25 students and up to 600 community members.
GOVERNANCE AND PARTNERSHIPS: Who will oversee and manage the initiative? How does it connect with other local, regional, or national projects or networks?
The Student Success Centre at Western University, through its Community Engaged Learning (CEL) team, will manage the initiative in terms of allocating resources, and orienting students and community partners to the service-learning framework. Dr. Zecevic will provide leadership to the project through two undergraduate CEL courses: HS3701B - The Aging Body and HS4711A - Gerontology in Practice. The AFLN, made up of 80+ community organizations will provide key direction and support, through connections to appropriate community organizations for program delivery.
OVERVIEW OF ACTIVITIES: Briefly describe the activities of the initiative: when did it start, what organizations and departments are participating? Give a few examples of what participants will be doing.
The Empathy Lab was developed in 2015 by students in the Dr. Zecevicís Aging Body course. In September 2016, 25 of the original Lab creators will engage in community service-learning through the Gerontology in Practice course. Teams of 5-6 will facilitate approximately 20 Empathy Lab experiences for 400-600 community participants. Simulations will be offered at libraries, senior centres, businesses, schools, medical facilities, and the public health unit. Each team will be accompanied by 2-5 experts - older-adult volunteers who will act as advisors. The impact of the Lab on community participants will be measured before and after the experience using the Fraboni Scale on Ageism (FSA). Analysis will allow us to isolate age, gender and service-sector specifics. We will share results with the AFLN and strategize about best ways to support on-going and new programs for the reduction of ageism.
STRATEGIC LEARNING: What will success look like both in the short-term and the long-term? How are you assessing results? What will you do with this information, and with whom are you sharing lessons?
In the short-term, this project aims to increase studentsí knowledge of ageism and provide opportunities for application through service-learning. The project brings together service providers, older adults and university students, and creates research-based evidence for future action . In the long-term, we would expect seniors to report increased feelings of support and inclusion from organizations and individuals with whom they interact. We would also expect adaptations of organizational practices, inclusion of Empathy Lab activities into the Age Friendly London Five Year Action Plan and, ultimately, reduction of ageism in the London-Middlesex community.
Would you consider your initiative to be a social enterprise?
Does the proposed initiative have potential to be applied elsewhere in Canada? If yes, please explain.
The Empathy Lab can easily be replicated by other Age-Friendly Canadian communities. We plan to feature this program at the Age Friendly London annual conference, Ontario Community Service Learning Network, and at the 2017 Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education national conference. We are prepared to offer support to others interested in developing similar projects. The project aligns closely with the goals of J.W. McConnell Family Foundationís Cities for People initiative in that it has the potential to contribute significantly to ďmore resilient, livable and inclusive cities.Ē
1. APPROACH: Which departments are involved in this initiative? How will they work with community organizations, social enterprise, local government and within post-secondary institutions (i.e. with professors, administration and students)?
Western University is involved in this initiative in two key areas: The School of Health Studies (http://www.uwo.ca/fhs/shs/) and The Student Success Centre (http://www.success.uwo.ca/experience/community_engaged_learning/index.html). We have partnered strategically with Age Friendly London Network (http://www.london.ca/residents/Seniors/Age-Friendly/Pages/Next-Steps.aspx) to develop the program and identify appropriate government organizations, community groups, social enterprises, hospitals and businesses with which to implement the Empathy Lab. The Empathy Lab will also be used for educational purposes with students in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and nursing programs at Western University. Students are involved at every stage of the process Ė from developing the simulation stations and facilitating the experiences in the community, to analyzing the data and making recommendations for growth and sustainability. Our ultimate collaborative goal is to foster social inclusion of older adults by all generations.
2. INFLUENCING POST-SECONDARY INSTITUTIONS: Will research or teaching within the post secondary institution you are a part of or working with be changed as a result of this initiative? How will the administration staff, faculty, and students be involved and recognized for their accomplishments within the college/ university?
This initiative will impact both teaching and research at Western University by utilizing a Community Engaged Scholarship framework. This framework encompasses: 1) Community Based Research , wherein Western faculty and students collaborate with the community to develop and conduct a research project that addresses a community-identified issue; and 2) Community Engaged Learning, wherein students, under the supervision of a community partner, complete community-based projects and earn course credit for their participation and scholarly contributions. Previously, numerous students in Dr. Zecevicís courses, continued working with community partners on research through independent studies, practica and Masters Degrees. The faculty, administrative staff, students and community partners will collaborate to inform the design of this community-based research project. One student (summer 2016) will be hired to conduct a literature review, and prepare pre- and post-surveys that will capture knowledge, attitudes and believes of the Empathy Lab participants. Simulations will be delivered to the community and data will be collected during the Gerontology in Practice course. The studentsí learning will be assessed through reflective assignments included in the course (Sep-Dec 2016). Three part-time students will be recruited (Jan-Apr 2017) to analyze data, write reports and develop a sustainability plan. Our community partnersí organizations will be assessed through qualitative interviews (Jan-Apr 2017). The application of evidence-based results will help catalyze change and enhance Westernís role as a key civic actor for the enhancement of Londonís age friendliness. This initiative aligns very well with Westernís strategic plan to increase Experiential Learning opportunities for students wherein they can apply the research, content knowledge, and skills developed through their undergraduate education in real-world settings that have meaningful community impact. Ultimately, a Community Engaged Scholarship framework results in innovative teaching pedagogy, enhanced student learning, and efforts toward social change. Our intention is to work in a transdisciplinary fashion to address problems for the common good. Administrative staff, faculty, students and community partners can be recognized for their accomplishments with this initiative by: Authorship on publications resulting from the community-based research project; Internal awards to support exemplary community partners: Collaborative Community Project Grant, Community Professor Award; Western University Staff Awards of Excellence and Excellence in Teaching; Abstracts, posters and presentations at the Canadian Association of Gerontology annual conference; and Invitation to Community Engaged Learning Celebratory Luncheon.
IMPACT: What will you be able to accomplish now that you could not before the collaboration? In what way will your organization work differently as a result of this initiative?
The Age Friendly London Network (AFLN) has been working for the past three years to enhance respect and social inclusion of older adults in London, Ontario. In the fall of 2015, the AFLN Work Group had the privilege of working with the Gerontology in Practice class to develop workshops on how to identify, prevent, and respond to ageism and negative stereotypes of aging. The students worked closely with members of the AFLN and of the broader community to develop an educational, non-intimidating workshop that can be tailored to a variety of audiences. The students found their experience so rewarding that two of them chose to continue to volunteer with the AFLN after the project. They are currently helping administer the workshop in local schools and in the community. This project will provide the AFLN with the opportunity to extend the scope and the reach of our efforts to change the stereotypes of seniors and reduce ageism. The Empathy Lab is based on experiential, intergenerational learning, which would be a valuable first step for our target audiences to experience. The educational workshop developed by AFLN will be a natural second step. Combined, they will help promote empathy and provide tools to address and stop ageism The Empathy Lab will validate the need for more information that will be shared through the anti-ageism workshop. The Lab will also allow us to have the equipment and educational materials necessary to ensure our workshops are of the highest quality. This project will strengthen the existing collaboration between the AFLN and Western University, and will expand to new cross-sector collaborations with stakeholders through knowledge sharing and learning. We will build upon the ongoing joint efforts to catalyze change, increase compassion and empathy, and change prevalent culture of ageism in a sustainable way.
Dr Aleksandra Zecevic
Phone Number: 1.519.661.2111 x80455
Ms Michelle Dellamora
Phone Number: 519.661.2500 x7208
Ms Stephanie Hayne Beatty
Dr Aleksandra Zecevic
Other relevant information/comments
Lisa Boyko, Community Engaged Learning Coordinator at Western University, is also a key partner in this project.