An Interview with Rachelle Patille– Vancouver Regional Coordinator

May 14, 2022

Tell us a little bit about yourself:    

“I started school back in 2016 –I went to Brock University in Ontario. My undergraduate degree was in public health. I was mostly just interested in helping the public with the health and social issues that they were facing. It was a degree that was all-encompassing, so I thought “it's not too specialized... it'll get a better understanding of what's going on in the world and the problems that the public are facing.” Then, in my 3rd year, I took an introduction to gerontology course … and my life changed! I had no idea this was a field of study; I had no idea it was a focus!   

I spent a lot of time with my grandparents growing up. They were everything to me. Pretty much every weekend was spent with them. I learned a lot from them. I still do. 

I talked to them all the time. Even though I live apart from them.  I am incredibly involved with my grandparents, and I didn't think that my upbringing could result in my career and a change in my path. 

This was something that really excited me, and I thought that it would be interesting to know and hear about how I could understand and help my grandparents as they age and just get a better understanding of what's going on in the field of Gerontology. 

I honestly had no idea that that one course would change my entire career path. 

In the last year of my undergrad, I got as much experience as possible working with the older adult population because I was concerned that my experience wasn't specialized enough. My knowledge was very broad, so I did lots of placements, lots of practicums, and lots of volunteer work. Then I applied for a Master's degree and I got in at SFU, I accepted SFU and I haven't looked back!” 

How did you get into research on older adults and homelessness? 

“I was always interested in aging in the right place, well, aging in place– I didn't know that aging in the “right” place was a concept in itself. When I was exposed to it, it was interesting because I know aging in place (like aging in the home or aging outside of the home in an institution) but aging in the right place was new and exciting. Seeing that older adults played an active part in where they age, that they were able to say “this is what works for me and why” really interested me, it is actually the reason why I’m here.  I wanted older adults to have an opportunity to experience a sense of belonging, meaning, and sense of place, I was really drawn to that idea.    

To add a personal level to this question, both sides of my grandparents are aging in place. I grew up supporting them in that decision and I always saw it as favourable based on our cultural relations and their expressed decisions. Understanding the meaning of home, belonging, and place attachment - all the aspects that come with aging in the right place - was especially important to me. I became extremely interested, especially with older adults experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness, because I've never had the opportunity to work with this population before. I was really curious to learn more from their life experiences, open my mind, and my horizons. I am very passionate about community-engaged research, and AIRP-VABE was a community research opportunity that I couldn’t turn down. This is the essence of being a researcher. It’s about taking an individual's experiences and making their voice louder, making them heard.”   

What are you currently working on with the AIRP-VABE Partnership? 

“Right now, my main focus is, well, there are a few! First, I am refining an assessment audit tool used to assess the built environmental features of hospice and palliative care spaces, which will be applied at our promising practice Site 2, May's Place. We are also currently working to develop a provider and client interview guide that reflects the experience of working or residing in hospice and/or palliative care. In addition, we are analyzing client interview data from the first promising practice site Senior Services Society while at the same time working on a manuscript special issue article on the environmental audit findings. Basically, we are working to conceptualize audit findings by telling a story within the context of temporary housing. We’re using the environmental audit findings and working on a wrap-up session with the Senior Services Society, so right now I’m just getting the organization members together. We’re bringing together individual clients who are/were a part of the program and just talking about what we found. We are also wrapping up our client interviews at  Seniors Services Society just to finish things up. Also, the CAG conference is coming up, so I’m going to be drafting an abstract to submit to the symposium that Dr. Weldrick is leading!"  

You're taking on a new role at AIRP-VABE as well, right?  

“Oh, yes! I’m working as the new Vancouver Regional Coordinator! I’m very excited!”   

What do you enjoy the most about working with the AIRP-VABE partnership?  

“There are a few things. First, it's the community-engaged research aspect, which I love. I love working directly with individuals who have experience in a particular area and have lived lives that have not always been easy... I like learning from them and their experiences. I think that it’s so important to listen. There is a strong need to learn from the community and the individuals in the community. The other research work I do also has the same foundation in community-engaged research;  I am very passionate about closing the gap that exists between the organization, community-based work, and academia. Anytime that there's an opportunity for this type of work, I can't really say no. I just think it's so vital, vital for students, for employers, for the community, for networking... Academia can bring a lot to organizations, and organizations can bring a lot to academia, so it’s important to work together.   

Also, I really like working with the site in our city, and I love our team! I love that I can conduct research in person now and meet individuals and hear their stories. It really seems like they enjoy the time we share so for me it feels very special. For me, working with three cities, learning from their approaches, and working with everybody in tandem is very new. It’s very rewarding to work on such a diverse, large team where we network, and share our knowledge and findings; this is a really neat opportunity that I am very thankful for.”   

What's something that you've learned since being a part of this team? 

“Oh, definitely collaboration, collaboration, collaboration! In many ways actually, it’s not just within the Vancouver team, but collaborating with Central and with the other cities that represent different sites and different universities. It’s very diverse and everyone’s focus is a little different. We’re all working on this project for our own reasons but everyone is coming from different areas of study, like social work, public health, etc., so there’s a lot of diversity in our team and I really enjoy that! It is refreshing how everyone brings different things to the table.”  

What are your future goals in relation to the work that you've been involved in with the AIRP-VABE project? 

“The CAG conference is definitely my goal that is fast approaching! I’m presenting at the conference and I’m a bit nervous! I know it will be a great learning experience!  

Other than that, I just want to be able to share all this work with the community and with stakeholders through various knowledge mobilization and translation activities, which is a key component of the AIRP-VABE work. I am very passionate about the work that I do with AIRP-VABE, even though it's not the focus of my thesis or even the reason why I got into this field of study. This is a very important area of research, and I think that sharing this is critical.

Also, something I’m really looking forward to is potentially working on a Tri-city paper with the whole team. I never thought that I would be an author of a paper, or attend grad school for that matter. It makes me even more thankful to be a part of this amazing work. We have a special issue journal publication coming up in October and I will be the second author and so that’s extremely exciting for me! I think between the presentation, the publication, and the tri-city paper there are just so many big things to look forward to!”