Skip to Main Content

New University of Toronto course is building bridges across generations

Categories: ,

The University of Toronto has partnered with Christie Gardens, a retirement community and long-term care home in Toronto’s Seaton Village, to launch an innovative experiential learning initiative: The Intergenerational Classroom. Half the students are University of Toronto undergraduates; the other half are older adults residing at Christie Gardens. Through interactive seminar-style discussions, collaborative projects, mentorship, and exchange, the newly created University of Toronto Health Studies undergraduate course in aging and health provides a semester-long exploration in the field of aging, gerontology and geriatrics.

“We live in an increasingly age-segregated society, and we know that intergenerational approaches can help to combat ageism, facilitate age-inclusion and enrich the lives of individuals of all ages, now and in the future,” says Raza Mirza, a University of Toronto lecturer and Assistant Professor, status only, at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work’s Institute for Life Course and Aging. Mirza — who is also Director, National Partnerships and Knowledge Mobilization for HelpAge Canada — developed, designed and will teach the new course. FIFSW PhD student Jessica Hsieh is the course Teaching Assistant.

“In our classroom we will take an intergenerational approach to understanding aging. Contextualizing the experiences of older adults is a step towards addressing the complex issues associated with aging and health in Canada,” Mirza says. “Our program seeks to emphasize that learning and contributions to society transcend age barriers and are enriched through intergenerational engagement.”

The first class, which is part of the U of T Health Studies Program, took place at Christie Gardens on Friday September 8th, 2023, and received coverage from CityNews, the Toronto Star and the CBC . During the first hour of class, undergraduate students and the older adults in the class met each other for the first time. Representatives from Christie Gardens and the University of Toronto’s Health Studies Program, Institute for Life Course and Aging, and Office of Experiential Learning and Outreach Support delivered opening remarks and to welcome learners.

The Intergenerational Classroom is a space that allows students to explore aging from a viewpoint that considers the perspectives of both older and younger generations, say the organizers, which includes the Institute for Life Course and Aging, housed at the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work. Mirza and his colleagues say they hope to cultivate novel approaches to policies, programs, and research agendas that address the needs of both current and future older adults and shape a brighter and more inclusive future for all generations.

The “Intergenerational Classroom” is being hosted at Christie Gardens in the 2023 Fall Semester as part of a partnership with the University of Toronto. It is proudly sponsored by the Christie Gardens Foundation and supported by HelpAge Canada, CanAge, the Canadian Coalition Against Ageism, the University of Toronto’s Institute for Life Course and Aging, Faculty of Arts and Science, and the Office of Experiential Learning and Outreach Support.