A Collaborative Applied-Research Project: Student Engagement with Seniors’ Communities

Janet Douglas and John Falcus, both members of the Scholarly Activity Steering Committee, worked together over the past term to create an innovative new research opportunity for the Langara School of Management’s Marketing Research 2100 students. In keeping with the College’s focus on community-based projects, John and Janet approached the South Granville Senior’s Centre to discuss their interest in working together. The Centre is a nonprofit, community-based agency that provides low-cost and free educational, recreational, social, and health-related programs and services for seniors in their area. Clemenica Gomez, the director of the Centre, was very excited about the opportunity and keen to work with Langara students to learn more about perceptions of the Centre and how to increase participation rates. 

Student interest in the project exceeded John’s expectations – in fact, students had to compete for a spot on the team. Overall, 16 students were able to participate. Four focus groups were conducted by the students and supervised by both faculty members. Team debriefs after the sessions revealed an unintended and unanticipated outcome for the students. Many were deeply moved by the seniors’ experiences and felt a strong commitment to help find solutions that would benefit the seniors’ lives. One student writes: 

“I think more courses should require our assignments and projects to be applied to businesses and nonprofit organizations in our community. It gives us a real sense of connection to our work… I learned a lot about what a senior center provides to the people in our community…Their passion for the center is infectious and it was only a matter of time before I felt emotionally connected to each of them. Now, I feel personally responsible for helping this senior center improve… I don’t want to let them down.”

Students went on to develop and administer an in-person survey, which strengthened their relationships with the seniors and contributed to the meaningfulness of their project. The findings of the study will be presented to the South Granville Senior’s Centre by the students this summer. Given the success of the project, more work with the Centre is anticipated for future students.