Student Op-Ed

GERO 401: A Refreshing and Unique Gerontology Term Project

April 17, 2018

By Abhi Prasad and Emily Byam

In Gerontology 401: Environment and Aging, with Dr. Atiya Mahmood, students seamlessly navigate the semester thanks to a unique project one would not usually find in an undergraduate course at SFU. Students are expected to work in pairs to conduct research with an older adult and their lived environments. The project consists of several components relevant to course material, including an interview with an older adult, a built environment audit analyzing features of their home, a floor plan, and universal design modifications students would suggest to the respondent, all compiled together and presented to their peers at the end of the semester.

“Give personal relevance to your knowledge of housing the aging population by cultivating a relationship with an older adult from whom you will learn about different aspects of their homes and neighbourhoods” –Atiya Mahmood, professor.

This project is highly beneficial to Gerontology students hoping to apply their knowledge to real-world situations. It motivates students to venture out into the community where they can foster memorable relationships with older adults who are given an opportunity to voice their opinions on their environments. GERO 401 allows students to share some of their knowledge about built environments with the older adults, while informing them about our programs goals and teachings. Furthermore, students are able to assist older adults hoping to learn how to better prepare themselves to age in place.

GERO 401 allows students to build practical skills that relate to introductory architecture and creating undergraduate-level reports, while asking students to develop their auditing and photography skills during neighbourhood analysis. Inevitably, integrating the social aspects of aging were paramount to fully understanding the complexities of the environments and older adults studied. As students were asked to consider environmental barriers for individuals with mobility and cognitive impairments, it became apparent that the concepts learned across all Gerontology courses were being made applicable to the project.

SFU aims to engage the world and this course is a prime example of how undergraduate students can be empowered to utilize their own course teachings into use by exploring and analyzing an older adult’s living space.