Ageing in place, ageing and place

A fireside, a hot drink in a mug and slippered feet up on the recliner.Ageing in place and ageing and place are intertwined but distinct. Both place and home need to support people as they age – one is insufficient without the other. Generally, ageing in place means ‘staying put’. That can mean the staying in the same home or staying in the same community or neighbourhood. 

Research with older people suggests that ageing in place is more nuanced than just a home or neighbourhood. It’s also about personal and cultural values, priorities and connections to people and places. It is layered with social, material and symbolic meaning. And it’s about having choices about where and how to age. 

Janine Wiles and Tara Coleman found that older people valued highly the ability to have choices about their living arrangements and access to services. Familiarity and connections brought a sense of belonging and security. 

Meaning of home

Housing is basically an infrastructure concept whereas home is where personal routines and interactions take place. This is what brings meaning. This is why we become attached to places. Wiles and Coleman found that this sense of attachment has positive functional, physical and mental health outcomes all contributing to wellbeing. 

Home maintenance

The ability to carry out maintenance tasks contributes to attachment. However, when these tasks become difficult, either through ability or financial constraints, the sense of home is disrupted. Homes in disrepair are not only hazardous but lessen the attachment to the home. 

‘Home and aging’ by Wiles and Coleman is a chapter in Handbook on Aging and PlaceEditors are Malcolm Cutchin and Graham D Rowles. It is available for purchase from ElgarOnline. 

Chapter Introduction

Home is a concept both underpinning and animated by ideas about ‘aging in place’ and experiences of place and aging. Home is an important resource during older age. At a time when people typically face changes and challenges, having a secure sense of home and strong attachment to place can give a sense of agency, autonomy, and resilience. A sense of home is intricately entwined with our preferred sense of who we are, and with how we build and sustain relationships with others and with places. Conversely, disruption to the sense of home can create instability and accentuate the feeling of being ‘at the end of life’ or of vulnerability and fragility.

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