Skip to main content Accessibility help

Wellbeing, independence and mobility: an introduction



This paper introduces the theme of the special issue on wellbeing, independence and mobility. We begin with outlining the complexity of each of these notions and then turn towards their interdependence. It is argued that the links between wellbeing, independence and mobility are manifold and contextual in older people's everyday lives: they differ between places, between individuals and across phases in each individual's unique lifecourse. The inherent complexity of those links can be examined fruitfully and understood better if a geographical or environmental analytical perspective is adopted. We also suggest that the interdependence of wellbeing, independence and mobility in later life needs to be understood in the context of neo-liberal governmentality and the creation of particular ways of being and acting for older people. The piece concludes with a brief description of the papers brought together in the special issue.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Tim Schwanen, Transport Studies Unit, School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, South Parks Road, Oxford OX1 3QY, UK. E-mail:


Hide All
Adey, P. 2010. Mobility. Routledge, Abingdon, UK.
Adler, G. and Rottunda, G. 2006. Older adults' perspectives on driving cessation. Journal of Aging Studies, 20, 3, 227–35.
Audit Commission. 2004. Older People – Independence and Well-being: The Challenge for Public Services. Audit Commission, London. Available at
Baker, P. S., Bodner, E. V. and Allman, R. M. 2003. Measuring life-space mobility in community-dwelling older adults. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 51, 11, 1610–4.
Ball, M. M., Perkins, M. M., Whittington, F. J., Hollingsworth, C., King, S. V. and Combs, B. L. 2004. Independence in assisted living. Journal of Aging Studies 18, 4, 467–83.
Banister, D. 2008. The sustainable transport paradigm. Transport Policy, 15, 2, 7380.
Bowling, A. 2005. Ageing Well: Quality of Life in Old Age. Open University Press, Maidenhead, UK.
Bowling, A. 2009. The psychometric properties of the older people's quality of life questionnaire, compared with the CASP-19 and the WHOQOL-OLD. Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research, 2009, Article ID 298950.
Bowling, A. and Gabriel, Z. 2007. Lay theories of quality of life in older age. Ageing & Society, 27, 6, 827–48.
Bryant, L., Corbett, K. K. and Kutner, J. S. 2001. In their own words: a model of healthy aging. Social Science & Medicine, 53, 7, 927–41.
Carlisle, S., Henderson, G. and Hanlon, P. W. 2009. ‘Wellbeing’: a collateral casualty of modernity? Social Science & Medicine, 69, 10, 1556–60.
Collopy, B. J. 1988. Autonomy in long term care: some crucial distinctions. The Gerontologist, 28, supplement, 10–7.
Crossley, N. 1996. Body-subject/body-power: agency, inscription and control in Foucault and Merleau-Ponty. Body & Society, 2, 2, 99–116.
Davey, J. A. 2007. Older people and transport: coping without a car. Ageing & Society, 27, 1, 4965.
Dean, M. 1999. Governmentality: Power and Rule in Modern Society. Sage, London.
Dean, M. 2010. Power at the heart of the present: exception, risk and sovereignty. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 13, 4, 459–75.
Featherstone, M. and Hepworth, M. 2005. Images of ageing: cultural representations of later life. In Johnson, M. L. (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Age and Ageing. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 354–62.
Fleuret, S. and Atkinson, S. 2007. Wellbeing, health and geography: a critical review and research agenda. New Zealand Geographer, 63, 2, 106–18.
Foucault, M. 1988. Technologies of the self. In Martin, L. H., Gutman, H. and Hutton, P. H. (eds), Technologies of the Self: A Seminar with Michel Foucault. The University of Massachusetts Press, Amherst, Massachusetts, 1649.
George, L. K. 1981. Subjective well-being: conceptual and methodological issues. Annual Review of Gerontology and Geriatrics, 2, 345–82.
Gibson, J. J. 1979. The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Houghton Mifflin, Boston, Massachusetts.
Gilleard, C. 2005. Cultural approaches to the ageing body. In Johnson, M. L. (ed.), The Cambridge Handbook of Age and Ageing. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 156–64.
Gilroy, R. 2007. Taking a capabilities approach to evaluating supportive environments for older people. Applied Research in Quality of Life, 1, 3/4, 343–56.
Gordon, C. 1991. Governmental rationality: an introduction. In Burchell, G., Gordon, C. and Miller, P. (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmental Rationality. Harvester Wheatsheaf, Hemel Hempstead, UK, 151.
Higgs, P., Hyde, M., Wiggins, R. and Blane, D. 2003. Researching quality of life in early old age: the importance of the sociological dimension. Social Policy & Administration, 37, 3, 239–52.
Hill, K. 2000. Social Exclusion and the Provision of Public Transport: Summary Report. Department for Transport, London. Available at
Hopkins, P. and Pain, R. 2007. Geographies of age: thinking relationally. Area, 39, 3, 287–94.
Kaiser, H. J. 2009. Mobility in old age: beyond the transportation perspective. Journal of Applied Gerontology, 28, 4, 411–29.
Katz, S. 2000. Busy bodies: activity, aging, and the management of everyday life. Journal of Aging Studies, 14, 2, 135–52.
Laliberte Rudman, D. 2006. Shaping the active, autonomous and responsible modern retiree: an analysis of discursive technologies and their links with neo-liberal political rationality. Ageing & Society, 26, 2, 181201.
Larner, W. 2000. Neo-liberalism: policy, ideology, governmentality. Studies in Political Economy, 63, 5–25.
Latour, B. 2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Law, J. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. Routledge, London.
Lawton, M. P. 1983. Environment and other determinants of well-being in older people. The Gerontologist, 23, 4, 349–57.
Lawton, M. P. and Nahemow, L. 1973. Ecology and the aging process. In Eisdorfer, C. and Lawton, M. P. (eds), The Psychology of Adult Development and Aging. American Psychological Association, Washington DC, 619–74.
Leece, J., Peace, S. 2010. Developing new understandings of independence and autonomy in the personalized relationship. British Journal of Social Work, 40, 6, 1847–65.
Mack, R., Salmoni, A., Viverais-Dressler, G., Porter, E. and Garg, R. 1997. Perceived risks to independent living: the views of older, community-dwelling adults. The Gerontologist, 37, 6, 729–36.
Merleau-Ponty, M. 2002. Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge Classics, New York.
Miller, P. and Rose, N. 2008. Governing the Present: Administering Economic, Social and Personal Life. Polity, Cambridge.
Mollenkopf, H., Marcellini, F., Ruoppila, I., Széman, Z., Tacken, M. and Wahl, H.-W. 2004. Social and behavioural science perspectives on out-of-home mobility in later life: findings from the European project MOBILATE. European Journal of Ageing, 1, 1, 4553.
Moser, I. 2006. Disability and the promises of technology: technology, subjectivity and embodiment within an order of the normal. Information, Communication & Society, 9, 3, 373–95.
Oxley, J., Langford, J. and Charlton, J. 2010. The safe mobility of older drivers: a challenge for urban road designers. Journal of Transport Geography, 18, 5, 642–8.
Plath, D. 2008. Independence in old age: the route to social exclusion? British Journal of Social Work, 38, 7, 1353–69.
Reindal, S. M. 1999. Independence, dependence, interdependence: some reflections on the subject and personal autonomy. Disability & Society, 14, 3, 353–67.
Rose, N. 1999. Governing the Soul: The Shaping of the Private Self. Second edition, Free Association Books, London.
Ryan, R. M. and Deci, E. L. 2001. On happiness and human potentials: a review of research on hedonic and eudemonic well-being. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1, 141–66.
Ryff, C. D. 1995. Psychological well-being in adult life. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 4, 4, 99–104.
Schwanen, T. and Páez, A. 2010. The mobility of older people – an introduction. Journal of Transport Geography, 18, 5, 591–5.
Secker, J., Hill, R., Villeneau, L. and Parkman, S. 2003. Promoting independence: but promoting what and how? Ageing & Society, 23, 3, 375–91.
Siren, A. and Hakamies-Blomqvist, L. 2004. Private car as the grand equaliser? Demographic factors and mobility in Finnish men and women aged 65+. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 7, 2, 107–18.
Siren, A. and Hakamies-Blomqvist, L. 2009. Mobility and wellbeing in old age. Topics in Geriatric Rehabilitation, 25, 1, 3–11.
Sixsmith, A. and Sixsmith, J. 2008. Ageing in place in the United Kingdom. Ageing International, 32, 3, 219–35.
Sointu, E. 2005. The rise of an ideal: tracing changing discourses of wellbeing. The Sociological Review, 53, 2, 255–74.
Urry, J. 2007. Mobility. Polity, Cambridge.
VROM and VWS. 2007. Beter (T)Huis in de Buurt: Actieplan Samenwerken aan Wonen, Welzijn en Zorg 2007–2011 [Better (at) Home in the Neighbourhood: Action Plan Cooperation on Living, Wellbeing and Care 2007–2011]. Ministries of VROM and VWS, The Hague.
Winance, M. 2007. Trying out the wheelchair: the mutual shaping of people and devices through adjustment. Science, Technology and Human Values, 31, 1, 5272.



Altmetric attention score

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