Housing, Neighborhood, & Community Environments

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  • 0:01 Well-Being & Our Environment
  • 0:58 The Impact of Housing…
  • 1:50 The Impact of Neighborhood
  • 4:02 The Impact of the Community
  • 5:15 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christine Serva

Christine has an M.A. in American Studies. She is an instructional designer, educator, and writer with a particular interest in the social sciences and American studies.

In this lesson, we highlight three main components of a person's environment and look at how older adults are affected by variations in these elements, including the impact of friends and neighbors.

Well-Being & Our Environment

Next week, you have a very important medical procedure to address a problem with your foot. You need a ride to travel the 20 miles necessary to get to the hospital, plus you would like someone who knows you well to help you with understanding the follow up recommendations from the doctor.

After the procedure, you will need to stay off your feet for a few days, and there are steps in your house, and, unfortunately, your only bathroom is upstairs. In addition, there have been a series of break-ins in the neighborhood lately, and being alone in your home right now while you are not very mobile is distressing to you.

Given this situation, how do you go about making sure you get your needs met and feel safe? In this lesson, we'll imagine this question from the point of view of older adults, whose homes, neighborhoods, and communities all factor into their quality of life.

The Impact of Housing Situation

For older adults, their home is one factor in ensuring a sense of well-being. For instance, a house with steps for someone who is not very mobile can be challenging unless modifications can be made, such as motorized stair lifts or ramps. The need to take care of upkeep of a home may also affect whether the environment is right for a person who is changing in their capabilities as they age.

For a person who lives in a facility, such as a nursing home or assisted living community, the level of care available in their housing situation may also affect quality of life. Too little independence and privacy can make a person unhappy. On the flip side, too little attention and infrequent care will not work for someone who has a greater need for support.

The Impact of Neighborhood

Neighborhood, or the immediate geographical area around your home, also plays a role in your well-being as we age. For instance, does the neighborhood allow for regular social engagement and access to transportation and services for older adults?

One measure of neighborhood quality is walkability. Walkability refers to the ability for a person to access services and social connection in their immediate environment, such as having sidewalks or footpaths close by. Urban environments typically offer good walkability, though other factors could make an urban environment less desirable for an older person, such as poorer air quality and higher crime.

A suburban area may be somewhat less walkable, but could still be within close distance to services and social interaction. Rural communities may be more isolating for an older adult and further from services, although neighbors may help bridge this gap and the crime rate may be lower. Each type of environment has its pros and cons.

A neighborhood will also be affected by crime. Older adults are more likely to be targeted, or identified as being easier to overpower or control. Beyond attacks from strangers, older adults may also experience abuse and neglect, where they are mistreated by those who are expected to provide them with care.

As a result of criminal actions against an older adult, the person may have greater fear of their surroundings. Survivors of crime can benefit from services that address trauma. Depending on where a person lives, these services may or may not be readily available.

The economic status of a neighborhood can influence the level of support a person will gain from those around them. Financially-advantaged neighborhoods are more likely to have the resources to offer greater support and options to older residents and those who provide them with care; those living in these areas may have more financial reasons to purchase services.

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