The majority of Canada’s older adults want to “age in place” in their home and community as long as possible, even in the face of declining health and physical functioning. Cohousing and Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORC) have been identified as potential aging in place phenomenon. However, empirical research on both communities in Canada is either scarce or nonexistent. A multiple-case study design was used to gain an understanding of the influence of the physical and social environment of residential settings and neighbourhoods on aging in place processes among older adults in cohousing and NORC. Twenty (20) older adults living in cohousing or NORC in British Columbia, Canada were recruited to conduct photovoices and semi-structured interviews. Data was collected and analyzed following constructivist grounded theory methodology. Findings show that aging in place processes were influenced by interacting factors found at multiple levels. At the individual and psychosocial level, aging in place was influenced by older adults’ health status, functional ability, mobility capacity, agency, resilience, and feeling of safety. At the physical environment level, associations with accessibility, functionality, neighbourhood destinations, and aesthetics were found. At the social environment level, aging in place was linked to community engagement, mutual support, meaningful social connections, and the social fabric of the neighbourhood. In addition, mobility was central to participants’ experience of place. Based on these findings, a conceptual framework on aging in place is proposed to better explain the complex dynamics between older adults and the physical and social environments of the neighbourhood. The integrated analysis of the residential and neighbourhood environments highlighted the relevance of considering “place” in aging as a continuum of various geographical scales in future research. This study documents, for the first time in Canada, the experience of older adults living in NORC and cohousing communities. In which manner these communities may provide an optimal environment for aging in place needs to be further documented.
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Thesis advisor: Chaudhury, Habib
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