Exploring Older Peoples’ Experiences of Place and Wellbeing
: a Qualitative Study

  • Manik D. Gopinath

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    Current conceptions of place and wellbeing in literature offer limited ways to think about the interrelationships of place and wellbeing as older people age and experience change over time. What is not clear is how wellbeing affects experiences and meanings of place and how, in turn, place mediates experiences of wellbeing. Through an investigation of older peoples’ experiences of living in a range of everyday settings (domestic, sheltered, very sheltered and residential care settings) the overall aim of this research is to explore what matters for the wellbeing of older people and how this might shape and be shaped by interrelationships of place and wellbeing.

    The study is qualitative and involves in–depth interviews incorporating a biographical perspective with 26 older people between the ages of 65-96 years living in different kinds of settings from across more and less affluent parts of Dundee, Scotland. The interviews are informed in part by a conceptual framework that draws upon strands from both place literature (drawing upon Massey 1995; Kearns and Gesler 1998) and Amartya Sen’s capability approach (2009). The conceptual framework is a starting point for exploring and interpreting the processes shaping older peoples’ experiences. The thematic data analysis builds on the Framework approach.

    A capability perspective and relational thinking in emphasising the dynamic and socially situated nature of place and wellbeing relationships show that older peoples’ experiences, the capabilities they have and the capabilities that matter are in a state of flux. My research findings suggest that a number of capabilities can matter to older people. Such valued capabilities are shaped by dynamic interactions between: a) age, health, and (or) place related changes; b) diverse socio-economic contexts; and, c) characteristic features of places and meanings attached to the place (at different scales of for example, the residence, neighbourhood, city). The findings also indicate that where older people have health related impairments, how interrelationships of place and wellbeing are framed and understood can have implications for who they are able to be and what they are able to do.

    This research has implications for both policy and practice. The findings suggest that a priori assumption about different kinds of settings as being enabling or disabling cannot be made. Rather, as the study demonstrates, paying attention to the complex and manifold processes that shape capabilities would permit nuanced insights into how, under what circumstances, and for whom particular place settings might generate enabling and (or) disabling encounters. Paying attention to the processes that shape capabilities also would allow researchers, policy makers, and practitioners to contribute positively to making informed judgements to support older peoples’ wellbeing both spatially and temporally.
    Date of Award2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorBarbara Illsley (Supervisor), Tim Kelly (Supervisor) & Vikki A. Entwistle (Supervisor)

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