Environment and identity in later life: a cross-setting study

Holland, C.; Peace, S. and Kellaher, L. (2002). Environment and identity in later life: a cross-setting study. In: British Psychological Society Annual Conference, 13-15 Mar 2002, Blackpool.


Objectives: The paper describes on-going empirical research on the significance of home and neighbourhood in supporting senses of identity as people age.
Design: The study has involved both group discussions and individual interviews with older people living in a range of domestic and institutional environments, in three areas (city, town, and village).
Methods: Initial discussions with ten groups of people (male, female, and mixed; ethnically selective and mixed) produced key issues for discussion with individuals. Individual interviews allowed the interviewer/interviewee to address these issues using a specific discussion ‘wheel’ designed for the study. Interviews also included biographical elements, geographic work, NEO inventory, and semi-structured questioning.
Results: The paper will present the work at the analysis stage (fieldwork having been completed).
Conclusions: The paper will present some methodological findings about the use of the group work to refine the interview schedules, and the use of a ‘open’ interview technique, in this case the ‘wheel’. It will also present initial findings from the analysis of both the group discussions and the interviews. These will include elements relating to:

self-identity – in terms of embeddedness and the identification which a person has with their homespace;

identity in relation to others – those living with you, around you, apart from you;

the social environment which allows most people to locate themselves relative to other people;

group identities – identifications with particular locales and neighbourhoods; being of a particular age, gender, culture.

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