|The role of home environments in residential adjustment decision making in later life
|Year of Publication
|Number of Pages
|University of Massachusetts, Boston
|Health Conditions and Status
Using the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study, this research explored the multi-faceted influence of the accessibility of housing environments on the occurrence and characteristics of residential adjustments made by older adults aged 70 or older. A range of housing adjustment outcomes were examined, including home modifications and relocation into age-segregated senior housing. Analysis of the accessibility gains following relocation was also included in the empirical analyses. The Ecological Theory of Aging (Lawton & Nahemow, 1973) provided the conceptual framework for the research. The longitudinal design of the HRS empirically advanced understanding of the key theoretical constructs by sensitizing the results to how change in competency and how competency uniquely intersects with housing environment in later life. The analyses findings suggested that structural supportive environmental features in homes, such as wheelchair accessibility, reduce the odds of making subsequent housing adjustments. Declines in physical competency and negative person-environment encounters were shown to be predictive of increased risk of housing adjustment. However, the preference of older adults to age in place was underscored by the findings showing that home modification rather than relocation was predicted by greater person-environment misfit. Age-segregated senior housing moves were not found to be influenced by the built environment of prior homes, but more so by spouse competency and household financial wealth. Moves that resulted in gains in accessibility features were also predicted by greater levels of person-environment misfit. The person-environment misfit variable, introduced in this study as an exploratory methodological advance, highlighted the heterogeneous nature of older adults in their interactions with the built home environments. The analyses findings revealed that it is the unique intersection of competency and the built environment for each individual that has the greatest impact on subsequent housing adjustments made in later life. This research provides empirical backing for policy advocates seeking to promote universal design and visitability standards for housing as a way to support successful aging in place within the aging population.