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I Was Here

I Was Here logo

Project Team Members: Melanie Santarossa, Catherine Dunphy, Jessica Blaine Smith, Matthew Rideout

I Was Here is a podcast and photo series that captures a history of our city that has yet to be told. The podcast consists of interviews with older adults about specific places in Toronto and how those places have changed over time. The older adults interviewed have a connection to the history and/or evolution of that space, and their stories reveal many events of social, cultural, and political importance. The accompanying photo series showcases the storytellers in the podcast.

How does your project remove barriers for people with disabilities and/or aging populations?

I Was Here is free to all persons, and can be experienced by everyone because of its adherence to accessibility standards. It can be used to encourage discussion and storytelling, and can reach isolated older adults whose physical limitations or health conditions restrict their education, providing access to an online resource they might otherwise not enjoy.

Where did the idea for your project come from?

The idea for this project came about in two ways. First, a member of Programs for 50+ and Community Engagement approached its director regarding Meaford Museum’s Living Memories program. The museum pioneered this program to reach out to local citizens living with dementia and other cognitive disabilities by using museum artifacts and art from Meaford Hall to stimulate conversations. Second, while Melanie was working in the retirement industry from 2013 to2017, she facilitated a program entitled Java Music Club. This was similar in design to Meaford Museum’s program, instead using coffee and music to stimulate discussion. This program allowed residents with early-onset dementia or those living with language disabilities to share and reminisce in a safe space. The concept for I Was Here came from trying to find a way to bring these programs together into a new type of program for older adults.

What are the goals and objectives of your project?

The goals of the I Was Here project are to give a voice to older adults and their stories, and to encourage other educational institutions to develop a similar model so that they too can learn and promote the stories that only exist in their older adults.

Who is the target audience for your project?

I Was Here is open to everyone to enjoy and learn.

What did you and your team gain from being involved in the Accessibility Project?

The Accessibility Project provided us with an opportunity to establish a process for producing the series, increased knowledge of the city, and an increased awareness of the importance of giving voice to older adults

What are your future plans for your project?

I Was Here will be incorporated into future programming for Programs for 50+ and Community Engagement.