Environment and Identity in Later Life

Environment and Identity in Later Life

Environment and Identity in Later Life

Environment and Identity in Later Life


Throughout life, our everyday interactions with material, social, and psychological environments influence our self identity: and 'who we think we are' influences how we behave in particular places. In later life, people bring to this relationship a lifetime's experience that makes certain associations more or less important. This book explores the relationship between environment and identity for older people.

In this detailed ethnographic study, older people talk in depth about their situations and experiences of space and place. The book examines the experience of men and women of different ages and cultures living in a range of different kinds of places, including 'ordinary' and 'special' housing - from a high-rise flat to a residential care home - in semi-rural, urban and metropolitan locations within the Midlands and south-east England.

This research enables us to appreciate how older people manage their needs within the context of their whole lives. Many are able to achieve a 'life of quality' as they constantly engage and re-engage with their environment. The discussion of how environmental complexity influences people in developing and maintaining their own identity is essential for those involved in planning, designing, caring and supporting people as they age.

Environment and Identity in Later Life is key reading for students, practitioners and policy makers interested in quality of life for older people.


Does where you are affect who you are? If so, does this relationship change in later life? This book is about placing the self in later life and the interaction between environment and identity. A wide range of issues are raised: personal, family and housing histories; decisions over lifestyle and living arrangements, sometimes compensating for individual frailties; environmental press; community involvement; attachments to various places and the impact of cultural change; routines of daily living; engagement and disengagement related to comfort, security and autonomy. These are reflections from the lives of people whose life course has spanned much of the 20th century and they are themes that will be developed throughout this book as we hear from older people living in semi-rural, urban and metropolitan parts of middle and southeast England who contributed to research from 1999 to 2003 for the project, ‘Environment and Identity in Later Life: A cross-setting study’.

We set out to understand the relationship between environment and identity in later life and we begin this chapter by introducing these concepts and reviewing some of the main theoretical and methodological developments in environmental gerontology. The dynamic between person and place varies but in later life we recognize two important factors: first, as people age their spatial experience may change. Many people experience long-term and recent frailties that can influence everyday decisions about activities. However, while physical frailty and personal competence are related they should not be seen as synonymous. In spite of poor health a majority of people maintain . . .

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