Soaking up São Paulo: Fieldwork in Brazil 

April 8, 2024 – Day One 

Greetings from Brazil! What a crazy sentence that I had no idea I would ever say in my life. It is truly so cool to be here getting the opportunity to see the country through the lens of research. We arrived yesterday, giving us a bit of time to explore and acclimatize, and today was the first day of our fieldwork. Although we had to wake up at 6:30am, the jet lag put us to sleep early, allowing for a well-rested morning with energy for our excitement. 

Our work, collaborating with IPA Brazil, is taking place at an intergenerational community centre in the district of Jardim Angela in São Paulo. This gated recreation compound is filled with many indoor and outdoor play spaces, with both formal and informal programming. What was once a juvenile detention centre, had been completely uplifted to now include lots of smiling, laughing, and playing. The primary aspect of our fieldwork here is naturalistic observations using the Study of Older Adult and Play Spaces (SOAPS) tool 2.0. Today, we used the tool to asses older adult interactions, relationships, and general behaviours in a sewing class and a music class. As the sessions went on, we became very comfortable with the tool and the environment. It took a little bit of time to gain our barring’s observing so many people, however, once we got our rhythm down, we were loving it! 

April 9, 2024 – Day Two 

Second day of fieldwork was even better than the first! We already felt so comfortable in the environment and with our research. As well, we got to observe the very fun classes of arts and crafts and dance! And boy, they can dance. Both classes were loosely structured with lots of free play, allowing for a lot of curious and kind people to approach us. These connections were further reinforced through interactions at the end of the sessions when we offered the opportunity to complete a satisfaction survey of the class. I am truly blown away by how friendly the people are.  

Today we also had the opportunity to collaborate as a research team, while in our temporary outdoor workstation surrounded by children playing and birds chirping, to fine tune the SOAPS tool. This led us to make valuable updates that better reflect and capture all that we were seeing.  

April 10, 2024 – Day Three 

Being our third day in this community, we were so happy to become recognizable faces to the centre’s locals. So many people, both older adults and not, would wave, say hello, and talk to us. Although we didn’t speak the same language, it felt like we were on the same page. Our main event of the day was the IPA Brazil weekly course “Guardians of Play”. Specifically for older adults to reflect on and engage in playful pursuits, this class was awesome. The participants were aware of our attendance and seemed very excited to be a part of a study that was interested in older adults. Therefore, comedically, the session began for us with applause as we walked into the room. Following this charming delay, the instructor lead in great activities to bond the members with one another, positively reflect on their lives, and to play. Lots of play. It so was uplifting to be there, listening to these older adults share about their goals and dreams.  

April 11, 2024 – Day Four 

Today was a great day – I am loving our rhythm and our work. It is also very interesting to think back and compare this experience to my first time using the original SOAPS tool in an age-restricted community in Florida. During this time, I was alone in the field and in outdoor environments which allowed me to go unnoticed. Complete anonymity. However, this experience with the tool has been very different. Not only are we travelling in a group of three, speaking a language they don’t understand with faces they have never seen before this week, but we are also mainly indoors. Rather than avoid us, the members often embrace and engage with us. It would be impossible to be flies on the wall, so instead we embrace our surroundings while making sure to complete the SOAPS form as accurately and comprehensively as possible. With that, the language barrier is proving very valuable as to avoid accidental bias based on what people are saying. While the personal connection component of this fieldwork has been an unexpected, it is my favourite part. 

April 12, 2024 – Day Five 

Today was lovely and very productive. We began the day with back-to-back observations of cooking and art classes. Both groups were so welcoming and didn’t have many older adults which allowed us to complete multiple cycles and observe more specifically how the same people engage throughout the sessions. A personal highlight was receiving a sample during the cooking class of the Brazilian dessert pastel de doce, made of chocolate and condensed milk. It was a perfect 10:00am snack. Following these sessions and a sunny survey of the area during lunch, we went to the urban dance afternoon class to observe older adults; however, none were there. We waited a bit but then just decided to join the session. The instructor and other participants, all being astronomically better dancers, were so welcoming and inclusive. It was so fun and a great way to finish our week of observations and lead into the community centre party tomorrow.  

April 13, 2024 – Day Six 

Today, or shall I say tonight, was a special event at the centre that we were so lucky to attend. In attempt to include more people from the community and have some fun, this event full of fun, dancing, activities, and food was a blast. We did two rounds of observations, happily watching the many older adults have a fun night out. Following our cycles, with often interruptions from people saying hello, we decided to finish our time at the centre by joining in on the fun! 

Reflecting on this experience, I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work in this community. I have learned so much as both a researcher and a person. There is nothing like fieldwork to gain hands-on experience and completing this in another continent compares to nothing I have done before. To get so close to this centre – the people, the culture, the day-to-day activities and food, and casual conversations – it was a beautiful experience that I will always appreciate. 

Thank you so much to my fellow researchers from the Population and Place Research Lab, specifically the Aging Playfully team, and thank you to all of those who work and play at the Social Bom Jesus CCInter Clube da Turma!