Swedish policy states that older adults should be able to age safely, with continued independence, and lead active lives. However, this plays out differently in different Swedish municipalities depending upon degrees of demographic change, globalization, and urbanization. Internationally, older adults living in disadvantaged areas have worse physical and mental health, activity restrictions, and reduced life expectancy. In Sweden, research on how disadvantaged areas impact older adults´ wellbeing is virtually nonexistent. We argue that disadvantaged areas exist in both urban and rural contexts.
The study aims to investigate how home and neighborhood factors influence wellbeing and how person-context dynamics and belonging are experienced, along with neighborhood change.
It is a mixed-methods study with three phases, including qualitative and quantitative data collections. Adults 65+ years living in four disadvantaged areas, all with special features, will be included – 2 urban (socialt utsatta områden) and 2 rural (avfolkningsbygd). As of December 2021, we have conducted a photo-elicitation study including two in-depth interviews in which the participants are asked to take photographs (n=39) of the neighborhood. By analyzing the qualitative data will deepen our understanding of how older adults reason about their wellbeing and neighborhood and how they place themselves in the transitioning context. Currently, Ph.D. student Afsaneh Taei is working on her first paper on how older adults experience and handle crime, disorder, and territorial stigma as part of everyday life. In November 2021 we started a quantitative survey and collect data through home visits or phone interviews to explore associations between observable and self-rated aspects of housing and neighborhood (physical, social and emotional), and wellbeing ( approx N=360). We will dedicate resources to achieve inclusive recruitment despite, e.g. language barriers, to reach a representative sample for each area.
The study team from Lund University and Malmö University has national and international experience of studies on housing and care needs of socioeconomically vulnerable or frail older adults. This study will add unique knowledge on what it is like to be older in disadvantaged areas, and deepen the knowledge on housing and health dynamics in later life.