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Relationships between housing and healthy aging in very old age

Sixsmith, Judith and Oswald, Frank and Wahl, Hans-Werner and Schilling, Oliver and Nygren, Carita and Iwarsson, Susanne and Fänge, Agneta and Sixsmith, Andrew and Széman, Zsuzsa and Tomsone, Signe (2007) Relationships between housing and healthy aging in very old age. ISSN 1750-1571

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Our purpose in this study was to explore relationships between aspects of objective and perceived housing in five European samples of very old adults, as well as to investigate whether cross-national comparable patterns exist. Design and Methods: We utilized data from the first wave of the ENABLE–AGE Survey Study. The five national samples totalled 1,918 individuals aged 75 to 89 years. Objective assessments of the home environment covered the number of environmental barriers as well as the magnitude of accessibility problems (an aspect of person–environment fit). To assess perceptions of housing, we used instruments on usability, meaning of home, and housing satisfaction. We also assessed housing-related control. Results: Overall, the results revealed that the magnitude of accessibility problems, rather than the number of physical environmental barriers, was associated with perceptions of activity-oriented aspects of housing. That is, very old people living in more accessible housing perceived their homes as more useful and meaningful in relation to their routines and everyday activities, and they were less dependent on external control in relation to their housing. The patterns of such relationships were similar in the five national samples. Implications: Objective and perceived aspects of housing have to be considered in order to understand the dynamics of aging in place, and the results can be used in practice contexts that target housing for senior citizens.

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