Student Profile: Rachelle Patille

February 27, 2023

Rachelle Patille is currently working on her master's degree in Gerontology. She completed her bachelor's degree in Public Health from Brock University. Rachelle's research will focus on the impact of community-based intergenerational opportunities in an age-segregated society. 

Can you tell me how you became interested in Gerontology?

My passion for working with and studying the sociology of aging adults stems from the close relationship I have with my grandparents. During my undergraduate degree, I enrolled in some Gerontology courses and later began volunteering and working with aging adults, where my interest in this area grew deeper. In my second year of studies, I decided to take an Introduction to Gerontology course as I’ve had a keen interest in the aging demographic since early childhood. This interest naturally stemmed from having a very close bond with my grandparents, where I often found myself questioning the health and aging processes they experienced. I had no idea that taking this course would coincidently introduce me to an entire new field that focused on my unexplored lifelong passion of the aging population. As soon as this realization came about, I quickly began taking a variety of courses that were closely related to Gerontology, specifically intergenerational connections and began volunteering and participating in research opportunities to enhance my experience within the field.

What makes you passionate about Gerontology and why is the field important to society?

I am passionate about this field because I find the dynamic process of aging so fascinating! The field of Gerontology is important as it aims to understand the dynamic aging process in a multidimensional fashion to better support the aging population.

What is your research about? How does your supervisor facilitate your goals?

My research focuses on the impact of community-based intergenerational opportunities in an age-segregated society. I quickly learned throughout my education that this close bond I shared with my grandparents was not as common as I anticipated – it was a privilege to share so much time and love with my grandparents throughout my life. I realized that respecting, interacting, and sharing between generations was so integral to my daily life. This realization initiated my interest in intergeneration and multigenerational connections amongst those who may not have or have access to biological grandchildren or grandparents in their daily lives. My thesis work focuses directly on how a Vancouver-based program facilitates long-term intergenerational connections among community members as well as uncover the organizational facilitators and barriers to program implementation and maintenance in hopes to provide direction and support of intergenerational programs in North America. My supervisor, Dr. Atiya Mahmood is very supportive towards my goals and demonstrates interest in my area of research. I’ve had the privilege to work alongside Dr. Atiya Mahmood for close to 2 years researching the experiences of aging in the right place among older persons with lived experience of homelessness in Vancouver area, which has no doubt diversified my skillset.

Outside of school, are you involved in any research projects or community initiatives?

I have been heavily involved in two community-engaged research projects during my time in the Gerontology program. I have had the pleasure of working on the InterGenNS [Intergenerational North Shore] project since the summer of 2020, which aims to facilitate IG opportunities in local communities for residents as well as support organizations to develop, sustain, and expand IG opportunities. Additionally, I have been working with the Aging in the Right Place (AIRP) project since summer of 2021. The AIRP project is a three-city project across Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver that aims to building capacity amongst identified promising practices that support older adults with lived experience of homelessness. Many are aware of the concept of “aging in place”; however, the concept of “aging in the right place” is quite new and transformative. I’m very proud to be a part of this project as I have the privilege to actively work with older adults and listen to them explain “what works for them and why”. I can confidently say that working on these two research projects have been the highlight of my graduate degree as I have been able to apply my knowledge, directly learn from the community, and build partnerships.

What are your plans after you finish your program?

Once I complete the program, I plan to work in the community with older adults directly hopefully in the sphere of intergenerational connections. I am looking forward to applying my studies, work experiences, and life experiences to the next phase in my career!

Do you have any advice for prospective students interested in Gerontology?

My main piece of advice for prospective students interested in the field of Gerontology is to not only be interested in your research area or topic area but also feel a sense of passion. Having a personal connection and meaning attached to your field will facilitate engagement and drive throughout the years. Since Gerontology is an emerging field and many individuals are recently demonstrating a keen interested in the older adult population, it is essential that those entering the field bring the added layer of empathy and understanding.

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