The significance of bodily impairments in place and wellbeing relationships – insights from a qualitative study of older people living in Scotland.

Deepak Gopinath, Manik; Entwistle, Vikki; Illsley, Barbara and Kelly, Tim (2016). The significance of bodily impairments in place and wellbeing relationships – insights from a qualitative study of older people living in Scotland. In: Communities in Later Life: Engaging with Diversity, British Society of Gerontology.

Abstract

Despite burgeoning scholarship on place, health and wellbeing in gerontological literature, consideration of health/age related impairments and their interaction with place and wellbeing is muted. Utilising relationally theorised notions of ‘capabilities’ and ‘place’, we demonstrate how consideration of impairments supports nuanced understandings of relationships between place and wellbeing amongst older people.

This paper draws on a qualitative study that explored older peoples’ experiences of place and wellbeing across a range of settings. In-depth interviews were undertaken with 26 participants aged between 65 and 96 years and living in a range of domestic, sheltered and residential care housing from across more and less affluent areas of Dundee. A thematic analysis was carried out.

Our analysis suggests that older people’s experiences of evolving impairment, place and wellbeing are all closely but varyingly interconnected. For instance, three participants reported having age related macular degeneration. Yet variations in visual functioning together with unique contexts impacted on different valued capabilities and produced diverse place and wellbeing experiences.

Attending to bodily impairment in the context of place and wellbeing:

a) Supports appreciation about kind of capabilities that might be impacted and reveals the emergent nature of some capabilities that shape perceptions of/ relationships with place;
b) Highlights the mediating role of place in shaping capabilities that matter;

The study strongly suggests that bodily impairments need to be attended to as a significant diverse factor alongside others (e.g., gender, age) to enable informed analysis about kinds of support that older people might require to live well.

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