The role of social and built environments in supporting older adults´ social interaction
AffiliationArchitecture, Building and Planning
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Piret Veeroja
The social and built environments at the neighbourhood level have been linked to older adults´ neighbourhood social interaction which, in turn, contributes towards ageing-in-place, wellbeing, and quality of life (QoL). Currently, however, there is no clear understanding about the relative strength and nature of these relationships across a diverse range of neighbourhood features. Moreover, previous research has paid relatively little attention to older adults’ social interaction in various types of third places. Additionally, the majority of previous studies in the urban planning context have concentrated on the quantity of social interaction, despite the fact that satisfaction with social interaction may be more important to older adults’ wellbeing. This research has two aims. First, it seeks to better understand the relationship between the social environment and built environment measures (including third places) with older adults´ social interaction. Second, it investigates this relationship through both frequency of social interaction and satisfaction with it. From the CSIRO Survey of Community Wellbeing and Responding to Change (n = 476) older adults´ individual views were obtained in relation to their social interaction and their perceptions of the social and built environments in six Local Government Areas (LGAs) in inner and outer urban areas of Metropolitan Melbourne, Australia. Older adults were defined as people aged 55 years and above. Participants’ addresses were geo-coded and 14 built environment measures were investigated in their neighbourhoods using various buffer areas (road network distances that ranged from 100m to 1000m). Using mediation analyses, perceived social environment measures were found to be stronger predictors of social interaction frequency and satisfaction than perceived and objective built environment measures; however, some types of perceived third places were significant predictors of social interaction. The analyses showed that belonging to suburb, sense of community, participation in community activities, footpaths, and cafes, bars and restaurants predicted social interaction frequency. Social interaction frequency, belonging to suburb, sense of community and services were significant for predicting social interaction satisfaction. The model findings were then cross-validated with qualitative data. Two focus groups were conducted with LGA policymakers and 25 interviews conducted with older adults from the same LGA areas where the CSIRO survey was conducted. The qualitative study supported the findings from the quantitative analysis, and further identified that follow-up studies should consider older adults´ personal preferences (such as lifestyle) and the quality of the built environment, especially focusing on detailed features of their immediate environment such as quality of footpaths and the micro physical environment. These results indicate that there is an opportunity for government policymakers and planners at all levels, but also for nongovernment organisations and community groups, to actively pay attention to improving social environments, especially community spirit, to improve the sense of belonging in local areas and to maximise older adults’ participation in different community activities to support ageing-in-place and the overall wellbeing and QoL of older adults. Future research directions to contribute further to these outcomes are identified.
Keywordssocial interaction; older adults; built environment; social environment; Melbourne
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