Below the Radar Transcript

Episode 153: Intergenerational Community Building – with InterGenNS

Speakers: Kathy Feng, Am Johal, Rachelle Patille, June Maynard, Sue Carabetta

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Kathy Feng  0:02
Hello listeners! I’m Kathy Feng with Below the Radar, a knowledge democracy podcast. Below the Radar is recorded on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. On this episode of Below the Radar, our host Am Johal is joined by the team at InterGenerational North Shore (InterGenNS), a North Shore community project working to inspire intergenerational connections. Throughout the episode, Rachelle Patille, Sue Carabetta, and June Maynard speak about the challenges of embarking upon community engaged-research during the pandemic, and the connectivity and collaboration that InterGenNS has helped to cultivate within the North Shore. Enjoy the episode!

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Am Johal  0:44 
Hello, welcome to Below the Radar. Delighted you could join us again this week. We have special guests with us today, we have Sue, Rachelle and June, who have been involved with InterGenerational North Shore project. So welcome to all of you. 

Rachelle Patille  1:02 
Thank you. 

Am Johal  1:03 
Wondering if we can begin with all of you introducing yourselves a little bit when I start with Rachelle?

Rachelle Patille  1:10 
Yeah, sure. So my name is Rachelle. I'm a master's student at SFU in the Gerontology department, my background is in public health. And through my degree, I was exposed to the field of gerontology, which I didn't even know existed. And it was a happy surprise. I personally grew up with my grandparents very close to them, so I had this natural instinct to be interested in older adults. So I decided to take that passion, continue my education. And that's what brings me here. 

Am Johal  1:39 
How about June?

June Maynard  1:41 
My background is early childhood education, and working in nonprofits. And I've been interested in intergenerational initiatives since my undergrad days at Simon Fraser, which is back in the Stone Age of the 70s or so. And then when I worked in nonprofit, we did some very interesting things to North Shore Community Resources, which really energized that interest for me. And so I got involved in this project. And I've been delighted as how it's going forward. 

Am Johal  2:13 
Great, and Sue? 

Sue Carabetta  2:16 
Hi, I'm Sue Carabetta. And I work at North Shore Community Resources as their manager of Community Engagement and Seniors Programs. And I really love connecting to people. And so when I came on board last year at North Shore Community Resources, it was right at the end of March in pandemic pandemonium, I'd say, and when I saw this brilliant idea that was seated and going on on the North Shore about intergenerational connections, I just wanted to jump on board and be a part of it.

Am Johal  2:46 
Right. So tell me a little bit about how the research project got off the ground and how the partnership was formed? You know, working at the intersection of university and communities, there's so many different ways that these partnerships come together. And that story is always interesting, wondering if one of you can jump in and share a little bit? 

Rachelle Patille  3:05 
June's gonna share this one.

June Maynard  3:08
Well, I had this bright idea that I thought—after being retired for four years I should say—that I had this bright idea that I wanted to see a coordinated intergenerational initiative on the North Shore, I thought it'd be great if we could find out everything that was going on in the North Shore, and then somehow support that and develop that. So I put together this proposal and I launched it to 30 organizations, most of them on the North Shore, only two of them off the North Shore. That was the BC Council for Families and Simon Fraser University Department of Gerontology because I've taken some courses there back in my undergrad. And I got an immediate response from over 20 organizations, including the Department of Gerontology, a very enthusiastic response. And so that was in July of 2019. And the City of North Vancouver hosted a brainstorming session in October of 2019. And Dr. Chaudhry from Simon Fraser Department of Gerontology attended that first brainstorming meeting. And that's how the link began with Simon Fraser. They were very enthusiastic. And subsequently we met, and Dr. Chaudhry suggested that perhaps there, as we had hoped, there might be a master's internship or a project that could come from this. And we thought that COVID might stall the whole thing, but through persistence, we managed to keep it alive. And now it's very alive.

Am Johal  4:49
Then for each of you, Sue and Rachelle, how did you get involved in this storyline of how you interacted or got involved with the project?

Sue Carabetta  5:00 
I think for me, as I came on board at North Shore Community Resources as mentioned, I just saw this seed of something happening, it was kind of just so in the heart of the community and something that I just thought, oh, how great that this is just emerging and bubbling up from right across school boards, and nonprofits, and municipal players, and it was just so exciting to see what people were dreaming of. And so I just wanted to jump in and be a part of it and so tried to look for "Okay, where can I enter in, what do you need?" And June got me started.

Am Johal  5:36 
And Rachelle?

Rachelle Patille  5:39
Yeah, so for me, it’s a very interesting story. So I actually started working on this project prior to even being a master's student at SFU. So I was all planning to come, attend, move to Vancouver, do the Masters thing. And my supervisor was aware of my interest in intergenerational connection. She knew this is what I wanted to study. She knew this was what I was passionate about. And so she heard from faculty members that there was this project going on. But they needed a master's student, and they need somebody to be extremely dedicated to this project, and do all the background research stuff. And so I got asked if I wanted to jump on board, and I was astonished I was being asked first of all. And second, I was like, "Yes, yes, yes, right away, yes." I didn't even know what it was entailing. But I was, I was full on in. And so that's kind of how it started. And we really hit the ground running in October, once we got the CERi grant, then yeah, so it's just been full speed ahead, like June said, since we really like come together as a group.

Am Johal  6:41
Yeah, wondering if you could, all of you, could describe the project in terms of how it rolled out what happened, and the kind of community building parts of it. And, you know, in any research project, you begin with certain assumptions about what's going to happen. And, you know, what did you find out? And what were you surprised by?

Rachelle Patille  7:02
Do want me to go first? Okay, so this was a community-engaged project in the roots, the heart is community-engaged. Somebody from the community, June, came up with this idea, and really just tried to spread it like wildfire. So we needed to respect that from day one. And I had a fear coming in that I was just going to be maybe perceived as somebody—a researcher coming in trying to change the dynamic of things. So it's really important when you're doing community-engaged research that... The people you're working with understand that they're the experts, we're trying to learn from them. So I did my best to make that extremely clear. And I think that that was the key. Because everyone was very inviting, embracing, I can't use any other words besides those two because that's exactly what I felt. And that's really what allowed us to work in partnership, and really be this diverse, intergenerational team that we are. We're very supportive of one another, we run everything by one another, which does take time. We have to consult, we have to meet, we have to discuss all the little finite things to make sure it represents the population. However, that's what makes this team so great and so intertwined and connected. And that's what allowed us to find really interesting things. I can talk about one major theme that we found was the fact that there's a lot of interest in this area, like extreme interest in this area, especially in the North Shore. I'm not too sure exactly why, I think it's the culture, I think it's how close knit this community is. However, there are barriers and those barriers being direction, training, tools and resources. People don't know where to start, and how to get involved. So that's our job in this project is to be able to provide these resources provide supports provide a way that people can get involved with this and have a point of contact. Because if there's no assistance and there's no help, people are just not going to do it. And in turn, that's allowing the community to suffer because there's so many cool fun things going on, they just don't know about it. So that's kind of where our focuses and that's where we went with our second phase of the project, is to really start thinking about how we can provide tools and resources to the community, to have them be engaged, to provide direction. So that's my two cents.

Am Johal  9:31 
Great. Sue or June, did you want to weigh in there?

June Maynard  9:35
Sue, you go ahead.

Sue Carabetta  9:36 
I think it was really great to start to engage in this project, and even just figure out together what that would look like. And it's not lost on me that our team is a very intergenerational team. And so as we experiment with what InterGen looks like, in our community, and building connections, we're doing our own little experiment together. And it's just been an amazing journey of working together and bringing our different perspectives, and just to have Rachelle start to look at all the literature and what was even out there, and then to interview at a community level a bunch of people on the North Shore to see what they're doing. And we've just seen a growing excitement and momentum for what could be. And what are the next parts that Rachelle's looking at is what's happening worldwide. What are some of the great models of intergenerational connections and programs that people are building in their community, so that we can be a part of the excitement of seeing some of those built in our community.

June Maynard  10:34 
The other thing I would say is that from the beginning, we've wanted to have the definition of intergenerational to be a very broad concept. So going beyond—I think what people traditionally think of as like children interacting with seniors—to really thinking about engaging other populations in the community, such as newcomers or people with varying abilities, and really broadening that concept. And as the project has grown, and more people in the community have become aware of it, we've made those connections not only to the research that Rachelle has done, where, where she has pinpointed these underrepresented populations, but also people have contacted us and say, "well, now we're doing a program with LGBTQ and we're seniors," and "we're doing an intergenerational program for newcomers to the country," and that. So we're able to make those connections and find those unique programs. And that's been great, because it's fed into our original concept of wanting that broader definition.

Am Johal  11:36 
Wondering if you can speak to sort of what you see as some of the outcomes of this study and the kind of actions that have been undertaken. And I guess, also, kind of where you see the future of this work going.

June Maynard  11:50 

Rachelle Patille  11:52 
Yeah, I can start. So there's a few things, the first thing being that I really feel like this project has facilitated community connection within the North Shore. It allows a lot of different organizations to come together, and really think about how we can make generations come together and provide opportunities for them. So it's created community connectivity, and collaboration among organizations, partners, community members at many different levels. Another outcome would be, I think we've really achieved increasing awareness and promotion on intergenerational opportunities. We've, like, created that light bulb to go off in lots of different organization's minds. And facilitate, providing encouragement, provide direction, which is really, really important when it comes to something that is challenging. Usually programs have one direction, you have one target audience, and that's kind of it. And that's how you kind of go about things in community. And this kind of breaks barriers in the sense that we're dealing with many different generations, many different types of people. And so this can be seen as intimidating, this could be seen as something very unconventional. So talking about it, and showing the benefits and showing what these programs can do, has been really motivating for organizations. And we've had great responses. One being, June and I actually presented at the Seniors Coalition meeting within the North Shore. And we had some really amazing responses, it was actually the largest meeting of attendance that they had in over a while because of COVID. And we think it was because this provides hope, this provides direction, this provides an idea of how our worlds can look like post-COVID. And these groups have been very, very much impacted by COVID-19, social isolation, and a whole bunch of mental health issues. So this has provided hope, this idea, this discussion has provided direction for people. And really, it's what we need right now, we need generations to come together. And so bringing that awareness is really nice. And we've gotten a lot of attention, more attention than I think we anticipated. We have blog posts coming out, we have meetings with really cool groups like the Canadian Federation of University Women, we're doing a presentation at the interagency meeting. So I think that we got this attention that we didn't think that we would receive, and we're very happy to be a part of it. And we're gonna be loud. And we're gonna make sure that everybody's hearing what we're doing. So yeah, that's what I, I think, and our deliverables of our project is really important too. So we're not just doing research and writing papers, we're actually creating tangible resources that organizations can use and utilize and make it useful for them to think intergenerationally in an easier format.

Am Johal  14:42 
Sue or June, did you want to add to that?

June Maynard  14:46
I would add that, just to give a cheer for Rachelle, that Rachelle coming into this project and how we started with the CERi funding through SFU, and then through the Mitacs funding and with the North Shore Community Resources community funding as well, is Rochelle set a great foundation of research and resources that gives that gives a project that foundation of validity and credibility. So you know, she did the lit scan, and the gray literature scan. And so we had a good broad representation of resources and information from those academic scans, as well as the reports that came out of that and some tools, reference tools that we can begin to build our resource hub with with websites and resources. So that was an outcome that we got right from the beginning through Rachelle's good work. And through that we're starting to build an inventory of various initiatives on the North Shore. And then we're hoping to build on that, as Rachelle said, with a resource hub.

Am Johal  15:50 

Sue Carabetta  15:51
Yeah, I think, I think one of the outcomes that's been really great too is, June alluded to it, in the sense that it's an awesome partnership between academia and community. And so we really benefit by both, because Rachelle is easily integrated into our broader community. And even in the midst of COVID, when we're not meeting face to face, we actually just met last week face to face for the first time with our team. But we were quickly able to develop those connections within the community for Rachelle. And then the result too is this table of over 30 organizations and players across the North Shore, gaining the momentum and the excitement that's coming from this research, I think really brings it forward into the future. And as Rachelle mentioned, I mean, what a perfect time coming out of the pandemic, when there's been so much isolation and so much hunger for connection, I think it's a perfect time to start to see these programs, just at the grassroots growing up and providing new vibrance in neighbourhoods and communities coming out of the pandemic.

Am Johal  17:00
It's so nice to hear how inspired you are all about the project. I used to work at the 411 Dunsmuir at the Senior's Centre like 20 years ago, when computers were being brought into social housing projects. So my job was to go into the lion's den, and when the computers were set up, to train people on use of the computers and all this kind of stuff. It was a, it was its own form of, sort of, intergenerational work but more informal in nature. But I totally understand the enthusiasm behind it. I'm interested in, you know, there's lots of literature and work that's been done around the value of intergenerational work. But in this context, like it takes people to put it together and work through these systems. You know, universities are kind of ossified and built around research and how the interactive community can be problematic and that kind of thing. I'm wondering if you can just sort of speak to your own story a little bit, you've already talked about it a little bit, but your own motivation behind what you believe in the value of intergenerational work in this way. Like what in your own story brought you to this work that made you open to it?

June Maynard  18:06 
Hmm, wow, that's interesting. For me, I would have to say it started with early childhood education. And in working in childcare centers, we would often make connections in the community with senior's homes, and just to see the benefit of that. And to see those connections, sometimes with the children that I was working at, because, you know, families have traveled and split apart and whatever, they wouldn't have grandparents of their own locally. So they sort of built those connections with the seniors. And I found that fascinating. So that when I went back and did finish off my undergrad, that was one of the things that I researched and I did papers on. And I found some fascinating examples of the intergenerational initiatives that were happening in BC and across Canada. And it just really sparked that interest. And it's never really lost me, or left me I should say, and when I worked at North Shore Community Resources, we started doing the Parent and Child... Parent and Baby Mother Goose programs in care facilities, just so the seniors could be observers. And the care aid said that from the very first session, just a 45 minute session, they saw engagement from some of those seniors that they had never ever seen before. So we knew you're onto a good thing. And that's expanded into a number of different facilities, prior to COVID of course. And I just thought to you, I wonder, you know, I just wanted to see that expand all over the, all over the North Shore in different ways, you know? That community can be so touched and benefited by those connections. What else could we be doing by linking different populations in different community groups? 

Sue Carabetta  19:53 
I think for me, just over the course of my lifetime, I've just always loved community development and being involved in multigenerational groups and just seeing what happens. And I know, for me, like just simple examples, like I used to do a gingerbread house workshop at our kids' elementary school. And when my kids finished, there was such desire in this team that was all different generations. And so, we took the gingerbread house workshop on wheels, and we went to another school in the heart of Vancouver. And for five years, we just would go in and build gingerbread houses with all the kids, and we watched them grow over those years. And our team was full of like, international moms that had come from different places and students and you know, the lady in the cafeteria was always like "You're back!" And she's making us scones and coffee. And there was just a sense of round the table and the beauty of the interaction of those relationships that inspires me. And I've seen it over and over again in different projects. But I love what happens when you put people together and just watch.

Am Johal  21:00 

Rachelle Patille  21:02
Yeah, so for me it's a little bit different, because my experience is from my family. So I'm the youngest in my family by about 15 years. So there is a huge age gap already, so that's already a factor. But me and my grandmother have always had like this really, like, interesting connection. It's this beautiful, intrinsic connection, where I just feel everything she's feeling, she feels everything I'm feeling, and you can't explain it. And so when I was really young—my family is Italian, so I didn't know how to speak Italian. So I had to figure out with my grandmother how to communicate. And so this is really interesting dynamic and task of my life and we were so connected, didn't even speak the same language but we did everything together. We gardened together, made tomato sauce together, we... So we did like all of the things you can think about. So I think that's really where everything came from. And I had no idea that I had this really unique relationship with my grandmother, because I thought everyone just had this. I didn't know it was like, very unique. And so when I wasn't doing my undergrad and I did take this Gerontology course, I learned about intergenerational connections with families, like kinship, so not families, just like June was saying, with older adults, and anybody really. And I just became really fascinated, because I looked at myself, and I was like, wow, that's me. Like, I was one of these kids that had this openness, and this really deep connection with an older adult, and I am who I am because of that. And I just really wanted to run with the idea. And so that's what brings me here, and I, I have to do something intergenerational my whole life, if it's my career or not, I have to because I feel like it really makes me who I am. And I think it really provides clarity, understanding, this unique knowledge that you can really see a person for who they are, and stereotypes and ageism is, kind of, put to the side. And I think that everybody needs it. So that's kind of what brought me here.

Am Johal  23:06
Well, I can certainly see this enthusiasm in all three of you. It's like rubbing off on me. One of the questions I wanted to ask was, you know, I come from doing community work before I came into the university, you know, working at nonprofit organizations. Worked at the BC Health Coalition actually, on trying to stop privatization of long term care homes a long time ago. And, you know, since being at the university and as much as people want to do community-engaged research, the systems of the university and community oftentimes don't necessarily work on the same timelines, or the structures of funding take longer to come into place. And I'm wondering what some of the challenges were in embarking on a community-engaged research project like this? Because I think, you know, from the university side, there can be challenges in terms of—but also on the community side, as well. So how it takes people to navigate through and work around the kinds of things that get in the way. And that's always a part of the story with any other community-engaged research project.

Rachelle Patille  24:08
I can start. So I think we've been very fortunate, I think we are... Like you said, we're very passionate. We, kind of, don't take no for an answer. And we just push. And I think that that is key. And we also—I'm speaking for myself, but I'm pretty sure I can speak for everybody here—is that we don't see this like hierarchy, two-tiered university community, like we don't do that. We are a team. We are a team of diversity. We are a team of different ages, we are a team that comes together because we love something all similarly. So I think because it's so heartfelt. And it's so, like, within us, those barriers that might prevent other people or other types of research don't faze us, we're just like, "Okay, let's just take down that wall and go to the next one." We've also been very fortunate with our funding, and our acceptances of funding. So that might provide a different lens or a different experience. Mitacs has been really great to us, same with CERi. So we've had an amazing experience with that. There has been a few challenges, but they're like challenges of research. So like timing, which is typical, things take longer than anticipated. And that's understood from the community level and the university level. So that's completely understood. And especially in community-engaged research, because you need to include everybody at every step, you need everyone's approval at every step. So it takes longer, but it's more meaningful work, so we're up for that. And COVID-19 obviously, but that's impacted everybody. So when it came to interviews and such like that, it took longer because people were just trying to scramble and it was their lives and get through the day. So those are really the only challenges I can kind of pinpoint. But when it comes to like community and SFU, like tiers, we didn't see that.

Am Johal  25:54 
Yeah, June, Sue? 

June Maynard  25:56
Well, I would agree with everything that Rachelle has said there. And in the beginning, it looked like when COVID hid, that was the biggest challenge. We were originally going after funding that required both community and the academic partnership for the application. And it looked like it would all just freeze because where most of the organizations in the community were very readily willing to support this financially at the beginning, when COVID hit, all their budgets and all their predictions became so uncertain that it seemed very tenuous if we could proceed. And really, I have to give a shout out to Dr. Chaudhry, because he just pursued various grants and found the CERi grant which didn't need matching funding, we were able to apply for that to launch the academic part of this and the Research Foundation. So COVID was a big one with funding. And then as people got more stabilized, we were able to go after the matching funding. And that was, you know, North Shore Community Resources was a, and Sue was a champion in this regard. And also the, you know, we have a very dynamic steering committee. So we were all out there, you know, applying for grants and looking for possible sources. So there's about nine or 10 people on the steering committee that are very enthusiastic, as is the broader community group. So the challenges also were, you know, because of COVID, we had... You know, there was stresses on those community organizations, so we did have to have a few people that stepped off the steering committee and we had to replace those members, because they were just under so much stress in their organizations due to COVID. And then some of our goals originally, we were planning, sort of, more of an interactive exchange in the project, and Rachelle and the steering committee have had to sort of adjust those goals, which had been equally as beneficial, but they were just different because we couldn't do as much personal interaction. But it's been incredibly rewarding to work through those challenges. 

Sue Carabetta  28:01 
Yeah, it seems like there's been some stalls along the way, as June referred to, but always the timing has just come through. And we've seen both our partnership in the community and up at SFU come to the table and just say, we want to see this happen. And it's been amazing to work with Mitacs, and this is my first experience with them, and just see their passion for this kind of worked to happen. And West Van Community Foundation in our neighbourhoods stood up and said, "Yeah, we support this work." And we're excited to be able to partner with Rachelle's next steps, to have someone on the ground on the North Shore to start working with a hub and collating all the programs that are on the North Shore and helping people to have a way to connect. Because it's not just piecemeal, bit here and a bit there. There is a sense of a community working and moving forward, together. And I think because we are kind of that grassroots, au naturel, moving forward with this, we haven't had that kind of uptightness like, "Ah, COVID's taking it away," upset of all the interviews, or whatever. We just kind of moved ahead, one step at a time, and kind of opened our hands to see what would happen next. And it has been an amazing journey.

Am Johal  29:18
Is there anything that you would like to add, each of you?

June Maynard  29:20
It's just been so exciting, it's just been so rewarding. It really, I'm just so grateful to be part of this. It's really exciting. I can't wait to see what this might produce for our community. And maybe who knows, is a model for other communities as this goes forward. It's very exciting. It's very rewarding. 

Sue Carabetta  29:42
Mhm, I would say that, too. It's just been inspiring, and it's just been exciting to see the momentum and the heartbeat of this project. And we just can't wait to see what happens next. And we're so grateful to have Rachelle leading us off on the research because it's been so instrumental and foundational to what we're doing in the community.

Rachelle Patille  30:03 
Thank you, Sue. I think that... I'm just so happy that we have a next step. And we just keep pushing forward and keep seeing what more we can do. It's like, we always want more, and we always want more for the community. So, I'm so excited to be a part of this and continue to be a part of this. I think bridging that gap between academia and community is so necessary, and I hope that other projects or individuals can see that we're doing it so they can do it too.

Am Johal  30:33 
Rachelle, Sue, June. It's just so wonderful to hear the story of this project. It's really inspiring, and hats off, literally hats off to you for amazing work and I really look forward to seeing where this is going to go in the future. Thank you so much for joining us on Below the Radar.

Rachelle Patille  30:52 
Thank you.

Sue Carabetta  30:53 
Thank you.

June Maynard  30:54 
Thank you very much.

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Kathy Feng  30:57
Below the Radar is a knowledge democracy podcast created by SFU’s Vancity Office of Community Engagement. To learn more about InterGenNS and North Shore Community Resources, check the show notes below. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time on Below the Radar.

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Transcript auto-generated by and edited by the Below the Radar team.
January 06, 2022

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