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In home or at home? How collective decision making in a new care facility enhances social interaction and wellbeing amongst older adults


Benevolent, long-term care can threaten older adults' sense of autonomy in a residential home environment. Increasing reliance on a hotel style of living has been seen to erode social identity, life satisfaction and even survival or lifespan. Drawing on evidence from both gerontological and social psychological literature, this paper examines the links between the empowerment of residents and their subsequent quality of life in the context of a move into a new care facility in a medium-sized town in South-West England. A longitudinal experiment was conducted during which 27 residents on one floor of a new facility were involved in decisions surrounding its décor, while those on another floor were not. The residents' attitudes and behaviour were monitored at three points over five months (four weeks pre-move, four weeks post-move, and four months post-move). Consistent with the social identity literature, members of the empowered group reported increased identification with staff and fellow residents in the new home, displayed enhanced citizenship, reported improved wellbeing, and made more use of the communal space. Moreover the staff found the empowered residents to be more engaged with their environment and the people around them, to be generally happier and to have better health. These patterns were observed one month after the move and remained four months later. Some implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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Address for correspondence: Craig Knight, School of Psychology, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Exeter EX4 4QG, UK E-mail:
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