Social Context of Aging: Communities, Neighborhoods, and Housing

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  • 0:01 Late Adulthood
  • 0:58 Social Convoy
  • 2:54 Senior Housing Options
  • 6:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

As people age, the community around them becomes more and more important in their lives. Watch this lesson to find out about the importance of a social convoy in late life, as well as the housing options available for seniors.

Late Adulthood

April is worried about her mother Lorraine. Lorraine is in her 80s, and April isn't sure that Lorraine can handle living on her own anymore. Sometimes, Lorraine forgets things, and April worries that one day she'll leave the stove on. Lorraine also isn't as mobile as she used to be, and April wonders what would happen if Lorraine fell and hurt herself while home alone.

Lorraine is in late adulthood, or the time of life after age 65. During that time, many people begin to evaluate their life and living situation. The people around them (family, friends, neighbors and spouses or partners) become an even more central part of many people's lives. Let's look closer at the social context of aging, including the social convoy and senior housing options.

Social Convoy

April might be worried about Lorraine, but Lorraine herself isn't worried. She's got lots of people around her: her neighbors, her friends and April. She tells her daughter that it's rare that she goes a full day without seeing someone.

A social convoy is made up of the group of people who go through life with us. These can be friends, family, a spouse or partner, a neighbor or a number of other people. A person's social convoy changes during their life, as people drift apart or pass away. For example, Lorraine's husband Charlie was a part of her social convoy until he died a few years ago.

The social convoy becomes even more important in late adulthood for two reasons. First, people have more time to socialize. When they were younger, most people were busy with work and family. But as they age, they retire and their family grows up, so they are free to be around friends and family more. Lorraine, for example, meets some of her girlfriends for lunch twice a week, something they never would have had time to do when they were younger!

The second reason that the social convoy becomes important in late life is that people come to depend on others more as they age. Lorraine needs help with some tasks that she physically can't do anymore, like changing light bulbs. She also needs the social support offered by her social convoy.

Social support is important at all ages. It reduces stress, which has a positive effect on a person's physical health and psychological well-being. Whether you are three or ninety-three, that's important! But in older adults, who might face more physical challenges and psychological issues relating to the end of life, social support is especially important.

Senior Housing Options

Lorraine has a lot of social support from her social convoy, but is it enough? April still worries that perhaps it's time to change Lorraine's living situation. But she's not really sure what options she has.

There are essentially five types of housing options for people in late adulthood.

1. Aging in place

This is what Lorraine is doing now: staying where she is and continuing her life. There are many benefits to aging in place, including the fact that it tends to offer a psychological boost and help people feel young and autonomous. But, as April has noticed, not everyone is cut out for aging in place, and sometimes people need a little extra help.

2. Independent living

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