Community Livability for Older Adults: The Person-Place Relationship and Process Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • Heatwole Shank, Kendra Sue
    • Affiliation: School of Medicine, Department of Allied Health Sciences, Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy
  • The concept of Community Livability is widely used, but it is not well studied or understood. It is important to gain a better understanding of the processes and dynamics that contribute to livability, particularly for the rising number of older adults in the United States who will `age in place' in their homes and communities. This dissertation describes a grounded theory study of community livability and the daily activities, or occupations, of older adults who are aging in place. The purpose of the project was to theorize the key dynamics of livability for this population and to identify dimensions of the person-place relationship that should be the focus of future inquiry. A multiple-case study design was used, and twelve older adults (70+) were purposively selected for diversity of experience, socioeconomic level, and living situation. Data collection included sequential interviews; naturalistic observation with each participant during an activity of their choosing; and GPS data collection which yielded spatial data about location, routine, routes, and duration. The spatial and qualitative data were integrated during analysis, where time-space patterns served to contextualize interview and observation data, and qualitative data explained and expanded insights from spatial data. Findings from this study include a rich description of daily life for individuals aging in place in Durham, NC; patterns of participation in daily life that vary by personal and residential factors; and dimensions of place that influence how older adults navigate the social and physical dynamics of their community. A theoretical model of negotiated livability is proposed and explained. Central to the model are three core processes including enacting an ideology of aging, building social infrastructure, and planning and strategic problem-solving. These processes are negotiated through participation, and they shape and are shaped by life course and place processes. These findings and the model are discussed relative to existing frameworks of livability, and are used to examine some current assumptions in the literature about participation in occupation and the experience of aging in place in the community.
Date of publication
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  • In Copyright
  • Cutchin, Malcolm
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Graduation year
  • 2013

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