Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

Supportive Communities, an Optimum Arrangement for the Older Population?

Academic journal article Journal of Sociology & Social Welfare

Supportive Communities, an Optimum Arrangement for the Older Population?

Article excerpt

The preference of older people to stay in their own natural environment requires a reassessment of the approach in dealing with this population group. This exploratory study examines a program conducted in Israel called the "Supportive Community", that provides an emergency call service and other essential services at the homes of older people. A case study was performed in two such supportive communities. Interviews conducted with those who operate the programs and with its members seem to indicate that supportive communities provide a satisfactory solution to the needs of older people who continue to live in their natural environment. Many aspects have been addressed that may be considered in planning the physical environment of supportive communities.

Key words: aging, aging neighborhoods, supportive community


A dramatic increase in life expectancy of people in Western society during the last decades (Brodesky et al., 2000) and the resulting age induced functional disabilities, coupled with a diminishing support of older people by their family, require that more attention be paid to the special needs of older people and their physical environment (Carp, 1994; Ward et al., 1988). Many modern senior-citizen homes and nursing homes have been built. Also, assisted living homes have been built, which appeal especially to middle class and upper middle class people who can afford to live there (Kunkel & Applebaum, 1992). To move to one of these institutions however, means leaving the living environment to which the older person had become very much attached. If they stay in their homes, this may lead to physical aging and deterioration of the neighborhood. Physical aging of the neighborhood will affect both the quality of life of these older people as well as the urban fabric (Billig & Katz, 2003).

Recently, more and more older persons are being cared for at home, employing domestic aid. Such arrangements have become widely used because of the high cost of alternative arrangements, and because older people generally prefer to stay in their natural environment (Tinker, 1997; Laczako & Victor, 1991). A program called the "Supportive Community" has been operating during the past two decades in 88 places in Israel, and is one of recent initiatives in the search of ways of caring for the elderly by the community.

This study will deal both with the well being of the older person and with the prevention of urban deterioration. The study will examine desirable services the supportive community could provide. It will try to evaluate the adequacy of its physical environment for the aging population, and possible interactions between human aging and aging of the physical environment, based on an exploratory study conducted in two supportive communities in Israel.

Human Aging

The rapid increase of the older population is a relatively new phenomenon that began to occur during the second half of the 20th century, particularly in Western society. It was caused mainly by two recent developments: A dramatic reduction in birth rate, and developments in medical science that have significantly increased life expectancy. Men aged 65+ and women aged 60+ are commonly classified as older people. Their percentage in the population has been increasing continuously in recent years, particularly in Western countries. For instance, in Italy and Sweden people of 65+ account for 17% of the population, in the U.S.A. nearly 13%, and in Israel nearly 10% (Brodesky, Schnur & Beer, 2000).

Old age, and particularly older old age (75 and above), is generally characterized by an irreversible reduction in sensorial functioning, slower response of the neurological system and impairment of the memory (Hultsch & Dixon, 1990). Physical ability is impaired and appearance degraded (Tabbarah et al., 2000) and the occurrence of incurable chronic diseases increases (Peek & Cowerd, 2000). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.