Person-Environment Congruence: Implications for Older Adults

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  • 0:01 Person-Environment…
  • 1:21 Congruence in Housing
  • 3:31 Congruence in Services
  • 4:27 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 explore how a mismatch between a person's needs and environment can have a significant impact on well-being and adjustment, focusing on why this person-environment congruence is important to understanding the experience of older adults.

Person-Environment Congruence Definition

Have you ever felt out of place at a gathering of friends or family? You arrive at this party only to find that everyone seems to have interests in common that you don't share, and somehow you just don't feel like you belong. Even the food and drink being served are not what you would normally choose for yourself. The environment is not a great match for you, and you feel discomfort as a result.

Social scientists look at such matches between a person and their environment using the person-environment (P-E) congruence model. This model states that a person's well-being will be affected by the fit between their important needs and the environment around them.

At a party where you share very little in common with other guests, you are experiencing poor person-environment congruence. Now what if you had to live in that type of environment for the rest of your life? How might that affect you? What about the reverse - if the environment felt like a great fit, and you enjoyed conversations and activities with those around you?

In this lesson, we'll look at why person-environment congruence is so important to understanding the experience of the aging population.

Congruence in Housing

Person-environment congruence affects your well-being when you spend time at social gatherings, at a job, in class and many other everyday situations. When you must live in a more restrictive environment, the relationship between the environment and your well-being is even stronger.

Restrictions are the limitations set by those who have control over an environment. A community of people that must be of a certain age and health condition, such as an assisted living facility, is an example of a type of restrictive environment. This housing situation may have rules related to the movement of the people who live there, such as guidelines for a person's safety, including when and how they can leave the facility.

The more restrictive a setting, the more likely it is that the person living there will be affected by person-environment congruence. When you were at that party that was a mismatch for you, you might have comforted yourself by thinking about the fact that you can leave at the end. A person who knows their living situation is restrictive, where there are conditions about coming and going, will not have such relief of thinking they can leave at any time. This makes it all the more important that the place where the person lives is a good fit, a place where they enjoy living and interacting with other people in that community.

Personality traits are one factor of person-environment congruence. An extrovert who gains energy from being around other people may enjoy a very sociable environment. Eating in a large room with many people could be the highlight of that person's day. On the other hand, the same situation might be a challenging time for an introvert who prefers the quiet company of a few close friends, eating a meal in a small, private dining room.

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