Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Home environments and adaptations in the context of ageing


‘Ageing in place’ initiatives form an important part of broader ‘ageing well’ strategies that are being developed in response to demographic change. Increasingly, it is acknowledged that it is important to understand how individuals shape and modify the space within their own home and immediate environment to facilitate flexible solutions in the event of a loss of independence. The research presented here aims to understand how individuals construct the space both within their own home and their immediate surroundings and how this construction is linked to their own perception of ageing and growing old. A thematic analysis of 28 qualitative interviews resulted in two differentiated responses in relation to home adaptations: those respondents who had acted to modify their home and environment and those who instead sought to delay or ‘put off’ any modifications. The results demonstrate the multi-dimensional experience of ageing, the diversity of types of home environment, and the interplay between compensatory solutions and the social contexts within which they take place. The need for a more holistic approach that takes into account factors such as an individual's experience of ageing is suggested in order to understand the use of space in home environments and the adaptations that are made to them. Policy initiatives for ‘ageing in place’ can be reinforced by closer user involvement.

Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Sylvie Renaut, Unité de recherche sur le vieillissement, Caisse nationale d'assurance vieillesse, 49 rue Mirabeau, Paris, 75016, France. E-mail:
Hide All
Appleton, N. 2002. Planning for the Majority. The Needs and Aspirations of Older People in General Housing. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
Baltes, M. M. and Lang, F. R. 1997. Everyday functioning and successful aging: the impact of resources. Psychology and Aging, 12, 4, 433–43.
Baltes, P. B. and Baltes, M. M. 1990. Psychological perspectives on successful aging: the model of selective optimization with compensation. In Baltes, P. B. and Baltes, M. M. (eds), Successful Aging: Perspectives from the Behavioral Sciences. Cambridge University Press, New York, 134.
Barthe, J.-F., Clément, S. and Drulhe, M. 1988. Vieillesse ou vieillissement? Les processus d'organisation des modes de vie chez les personnes âgées. Les Cahiers de la Recherche sur le Travail Social, 15, 1131.
Bonvalet, C. and Ogg, J. 2008. The housing situation and residential strategies of older people in France. Ageing & Society, 28, 6, 753–77.
Boulmier, M. 2010. Bien vieillir à domicile: enjeux d'habitat, enjeux de territoires [Ageing Well at Home: Challenges of the Environment and Locality]. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
Boyatzis, R. 1998. Transforming Qualitative Information: Thematic Analysis and Code Development. Sage, Thousand Oaks, California.
Broussy, L. 2013. L'adaptation de la société au vieillissement de sa population [The Adaptation of Society to an Ageing Population]. Available online at [Accessed 20 December 2013].
Caradec, V. 2007. L’épreuve du grand âge. Retraite et société, 52, 3, 1137.
Chamahian, A. and Lefrançois, C. (eds) 2012. Vivre les âges de la vie. De l'adolescence au grand âge [Living Different Life Stages. From Adolescence to Old Age] . L'Harmattan, Paris.
Croucher, K. 2008. Housing Choices and Aspirations of Older People. Research from the New Horizons Programme. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
Demakakos, P., Gjonca, E. and Nazroo, J. 2007. Age identity, age perceptions, and health: evidence from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Annals of the New York Academy of Science, 1114, 279–87.
Denzin, N. K. 1989. The Research Act. Third Edition, Prentice Hall, Englewood Cliffs, NJ.
Department for Communities and Local Government 2008. Lifetime Homes, Lifetime Neighbourhoods. A National Strategy for Housing in an Ageing Society. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
European Commission Information Society and Media 2010. Overview of the European Strategy in ICT for Ageing Well. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
Evans, G. D., Kantrowitz, E. and Eshelman, P. 2002. Housing quality and psychological well-being among the elderly population. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 57B, 4, P381–4.
Fänge, A. and Iwarsson, S. 2003. Accessibility and usability in housing – construct validity and implications for research and practice. Disability and Rehabilitation, 25, 23, 1316–25.
Gershon, R. R., Dailey, M., Magda, L. A., Riley, H. E., Conolly, J., Silver, A. 2012. Safety in the home healthcare sector: development of a new household safety checklist. Journal of Patient Safety, 8, 2, 51–9.
Gignac, M. A. M., Cott, C. and Badley, E. M. 2000. Adaptation to chronic illness and disability and its relationship to perceptions of independence and dependence. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, 55B, 6, P362–72.
Gilleard, C. and Higgs, P. 2000. Cultures of Ageing: Self, Citizen and the Body. Prentice Hall, Harlow, UK.
Gitlin, L. N. 2003. Conducting research on home environments. Lessons learned and new directions. The Gerontologist, 43, 5, 628–37.
Gitlin, L. N. 2006. Environmental assessment. In Schulz, R. (ed), The Encyclopedia of Aging. Fourth Edition, Springer, New York, 374–5.
Gitlin, L. N., Corcoran, M., Winter, L., Boyce, A. and Hauck, W. W. 2001. A randomized, controlled trial of a home environmental intervention: effect on efficacy and upset in caregivers and on daily function of persons with dementia. The Gerontologist, 41, 1, 414.
Heywood, F. 2004. Understanding needs: a starting point for quality. Housing Studies, 19, 5, 709–26.
Heywood, F., Oldman, C. and Means, R. 2002. Housing and Home in Later Life. Open University Press, Buckingham, UK.
Hillcoat-Nallétamby, S., Ogg, J., Renaut, S. and Bonvalet, C. 2010. Ageing populations and housing needs: comparing strategic policy discourses in France and England. Social Policy & Administration, 44, 7, 808–26.
Kerjosse, R. and Weber, A. 2003. Aides techniques et aménagements du logement : usages et besoins des personnes âgées vivant à domicile [Technical aids and home adaptations: use and needs of older people living at home]. Etudes et résultats, 262, September, 111.
Lawton, M. P. 1977. The impact of the environment on aging and behavior. In Birren, J. E. and Schaie, K. W. (eds), Handbook of the Psychology of Aging. Van Nostrand Reinhold, New York, 276301.
Lawton, M. P. 1982. Competence, environmental press, and the adaptation of older people. In Lawton, M. P., Windley, P. G. and Byerts, T. O. (eds), Aging and the Environment. Springer, New York, 3359.
Lawton, M. P. 1989. Environmental proactivity in older people. In Bengtson, V. L. and Schaie, K. W. (eds), The Course of Later Life. Springer, New York, 1523.
Levy, B. R. 2003. Mind matters: cognitive and physical effects of aging self-stereotypes. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 58B, 4, 203–11.
Lewis, A., Torrington, J., Barnes, S., Darton, R., Holder, J., McKee, K., Netten, A. and Orrell, A. 2010. EVOLVE: a tool for evaluating the design of older people's housing. Housing, Care and Support, 13, 3, 3641.
Lowery, K., Buri, H. and Ballard, C. 2000. What is the prevalence of environmental hazards in the homes of dementia sufferers and are they associated with falls. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 15, 10, 883–6.
Ministère de la Santé et des Solidarités, Ministère délégué à la Sécurité Sociale aux Personnes âgées aux Personnes handicapées et à la Famille 2007. Plan national ‘Bien vieillir’ 2007–2009 [Ageing Well, 2007–2009]. Available online at [accessed 26 December 2013].
Ministère délégué à la Sécurité sociale, Personnes âgées, aux Personnes handicapées et à la Famille 2006. Plan solidarité grande âge [Solidarity with Older People]. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
National Centre for Social Research 2012. English Longitudinal Study of Ageing. Wave 5 Interview Questionnaire – 2010–2011. Available online at [accessed 10 December 2013].
Nord, C., Eakin, P., Astley, P. and Atkinson, A. R. 2009. An exploration of communication between clients and professionals in the design of home adaptations. British Journal of Occupational Therapy, 72, 5, 197204.
Ogg, J. and Gorgeon, C. 2003. Social gerontology in France: historical trends and recent developments. Ageing & Society, 23, 6, 118.
Oswald, F., Wahl, H. W., Schilling, O., Nygren, C., Fange, A., Sixsmith, A., Sixsmith, J., Szeman, Z., Tomsone, S. and Iwarsson, S. 2007. Relationships between housing and healthy aging in very old age. The Gerontologist, 47, 1, 96107.
Petersson, I., Kottorp, A., Bergström, J. and Lilja, M. 2009. Longitudinal changes in everyday life after home modifications for people aging with disabilities. Scandanavian Journal of Occupational Therapy, 16, 2, 7887.
Petersson, I., Lilja, M. and Borell, L. 2012. To feel safe in everyday life at home – a study of older adults after home modifications. Ageing & Society, 32, 5, 791811.
Renaut, S., Ogg, J., Petite, S. Chamahian, A. and Vermeersch, S. 2012. L'aménagement du logement, son accessibilité et les aides techniques: usages et besoins, connaissance des dispositifs dans l'enquête Handicap-Santé [Home Adaptations, Accessibility and Technical Aids: Use, Needs and Information in the Disability-Health Survey]. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
Sixsmith, A. and Sixsmith, J. 2008. Ageing in place in the United Kingdom. Ageing International, 32, 3, 219–35.
Steverink, N., Westerhof, G. J., Bode, C. and Dittmann-Kohli, F. 2001. The personal experience of aging, individual resources, and subjective well-being. Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 56B, 6, 364–73.
Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe 2013. Wave 4.8.8 Questionnaire – Version 4.8. (Fieldwork) – Generic (English). Available online at [Accessed 10 December 2013].
Thomése, F. and Broese van Groenou, M. 2006. Adaptive strategies after health decline in later life: increasing the person–environment fit by adjusting the social and physical environment. European Journal of Ageing, 3, 4, 169–77.
UK Local Government Association 2013. Ageing Well Legacy 2013. Available online at [Accessed 26 December 2013].
Wahl, H.-W., Oswald, F. and Zimprich, D. 1999. Everyday competence in visually impaired older adults: a case for person–environment perspectives. The Gerontologist, 39, 2, 140–9.
Wahl, H.-W. and Weissman, J. 2003. Environmental gerontology at the beginning of the new millennium: reflections on its historical, empirical and theoretical development. The Gerontologist, 43, 5, 616–27.
Westerhof, G. J. and Barrett, A. E. 2005. Age identity and subjective well-being: a comparison of the United States and Germany. Journals of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 60B, 3, S129–36.
Winters, S. (ed.) 2001. Lifetime Housing in Europe. Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Ageing & Society
  • ISSN: 0144-686X
  • EISSN: 1469-1779
  • URL: /core/journals/ageing-and-society
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed