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Experiences of place and neighbourhood in later life: Developing age-friendly communities

dinsdag, 26 juni, 2012 - 18:00
Campus: Brussels Humanities, Sciences & Engineering campus
Faculteit: Psychology and Educational Sciences
Promotiezaal - D2.01
Tine Buffel

Abstract of the thesis

Neighbourhoods contribute significantly to shaping their residents’ everyday life. In later life, the neighbourhood may become even more important. Ageing can be associated with an intensification of feelings about place and locality, and attachments to the neighbourhood may significantly shape the experience of ageing. Over recent years, several developments have intensified the discussion relating to the role of place in ageing. In particular, there is the adoption of the policy goal of supporting people in their own homes for as long as possible. This emphasis on what is termed ‘ageing in place’ has led to an increasing interest in building social and physical environments that are appropriate and responsive to the needs of older people. The endorsement by influential international organisations such as the World Health Organisation and the European Commission of creating ‘age-friendly’ environments that promote ‘active ageing’ has further stimulated this discussion.

Despite the acknowledged importance of community environments, the meaning and role of neighbourhoods for older people remains under-explored. This PhD study sets out to understand the relationships between older adults and their immediate environment. It examines both enabling and constraining characteristics of physical-social environments for older people living in a range of different kinds of communities in Flanders, Belgium. It also presents findings from cross-national research with long-term residents and first generation migrants living in deprived urban neighbourhoods in Belgium and England.

This research enables us to appreciate how older adults manage their needs within the context of their neighbourhood. Many are able to achieve ‘a sense of home’ as they constantly engage and re-engage with their environment. The discussion of how environmental complexity influences ageing persons is essential for those involved in building and managing ‘age-friendly’ communities. The study will be especially relevant to students in the field of gerontology, social policy, housing, planning, the built environment and community development. It will also appeal to academics, policy-makers, urban planners, service providers, and practitioners interested in quality of life for older people.

Curriculum Vitae

Tine Buffel obtained a degree in Social Work at the Artevelde University College Ghent and Adult Educational Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. She was awarded a PhD scholarship from the Fund for Scientific Research - Flanders in Belgium (FWO) in 2008, and currently works as a researcher in the department of Adult Educational Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel. As a member of the ‘Belgian Ageing Studies’ research group, Tine is especially interested in the social and spatial aspects of ageing. In March 2010, she also became a research fellow at the centre for Social Gerontology at Keele University in the UK and is working together with world class social gerontologists focusing on issues relating to urbanisation, social exclusion and migration. She has published on age-related matters in a range of international journals, including Ageing & Society, BMC Public Health, Critical Social Policy, European Journal of Ageing, International Journal of Lifelong Education and Journal of Housing and the Built Environment. Besides her research activities, Tine regularly teaches in the courses ‘Social Gerontology’, ‘Research Methodology’ and ‘Research Practicum Adult Educational Sciences’, and guides several students in writing their Master Thesis. She is also involved in a number of European networks and projects concerning age-friendly cities, intergenerational relationships and social cohesion.