Interviewing an Older Adult


The Teacher’s Voice

After initially asking my students to conduct an in-person interview of an elder from the community, I realized I needed to make some adjustments to ensure that every student was successful. I decided to expand the project to include “older adults from the community” as it was difficult to connect an elder with all 28 of my students.

Several students also asked me if they could interview their grandparents or great-grandparents (often overseas) via a telephone call or video chat, and I instantly realized that I could never say no. We need to meet our students where they are, especially in ways they are enthusiastic for. If they were in a space or place in their lives where they are seeking to build stronger connections with elders in their own families, I wanted to encourage that. 

The First Peoples Principles of Learning were intuitively embedded in this lesson. For example:

  • Learning is holistic, reflexive, reflective, experiential, and relational (focused on connectedness, on reciprocal relationships, and a sense of place).
  • Learning involves generational roles and responsibilities.
  • Learning is embedded in memory, history, and story.

Student feedback on this assignment was very positive, and they noted that the interviews were very special and valuable to them. There was a strong sense of personal awareness, and their post-interview reflections proved to be an invaluable and integral part of the process.

Note: Interview questions work best when collaboratively created by students, alongside teacher guidance. An additional source of interview questions:


Student Reflection

When this project was first introduced, I did not immediately have someone in mind to interview. I felt insecure about not having any blood relatives here in Canada. I use the word blood relative because in creating this video, my understanding of the word family was more so crystallized.

For eleven years, my family lived in the house next door to Sandra. Growing up, my interactions with Sandra and her late husband, James, felt familiar and an ordinary part of everyday life. Walking home from school, James would be mowing both our front lawns and Sandra would be out front calling out for their cat. She would always be so kind and inquisitive about where I was in life and how I was doing in school.

When I asked to interview her for this project, she was more than eager in inviting me to her home and indulging me in her life’s journey. Interviewing Sandra turned into this amazing conversation where I learned so much about someone experiencing a completely different stage of her life, as well as someone who had grown up in a time unrecognizable to me, both socially and culturally. And yet, as Sandra told me about her thoughts from when she was a youth, I recognized similar thoughts in myself. I began to understand that there can exist common worries between people of different generations.

Sandra expresses in the video, that she is still unaware of her purpose in life; a feeling that I myself am familiar with. In interviewing Sandra and finding understanding and compassion within myself, I recognized the values of social responsibility and diverse relationships. I distinctly remember one afternoon arriving home from school, I was alarmed at the sound of my mom crying. I walked to the door to find Sandra crying in her arms. I remember always feeling so angry about James’ passing; how such a terrible thing could happen to two beautiful people. Hearing Sandra express her outlook on the intensity of losing a loved one, allowed me to appreciate a different perspective of life. 

One of the questions that I asked was what advice Sandra would give her young self. I resonated greatly with her response, that she would reassure herself that she is stronger and better than she feels. I felt this echo within me, as if Sandra’s growth and experience was a familiarity in my own struggles with identity. I realized from this project, that all those years of casual interaction and everyday conversation with Sandra was what built this familial comfort that I feel today. I feel a sense of warmth when I think about how people of different generations and different cultures can discover a sense of family and home from each other. 

There are a number of core competencies that I feel like I grew within, as a result of this assignment. For example, personal awareness and responsibility, as well as the impact of social responsibility (building relationships and valuing diversity). Another competency I found familiarity with through this project is building and sustaining relationships with diverse people, including people from different generations.

Activity Video

Profile Analysis

Conscience de soi et responsabilité personnelle

Conscience de soi et responsabilité personnelle

Conscience et responsabilité sociales

Conscience et responsabilité sociales

Pensée critique et réflexive