Facilitating Meaningful Activities and Relationships: Designing Dwellings and Communities That Improve the Quality of Life of the High-Needs Elderly


As the population ages, there are greater demands for housing and communities that support independent living for the high-needs elderly. This research qualitatively examines the meaningful activities and relationships of 30 residents requiring assistance in senior housing complexes in New Zealand. Using semi-structured interviews and direct observation, data was gathered on both the perceptions and spatial use of those activities which are significant contributors to Quality of Life (QoL) and are also greatly influenced by the design of living environments. Emergent themes for meaningful activities and relationships included a desire for: a variety of activities motivated by familiarity; keeping active/able; privacy; maintaining relationships with family friends, other residents and staff; and a connection with, and contribution to, the wider community and nature. Factors such as safety, support availability, connection and privacy, as well as the influence of impairments and personal preferences have relevance for design. The research finds that the design of personal dwellings has a significant impact on the ability of the high needs elderly to maintain their QoL. In the design of individual dwellings, spatial solutions are required to provide greater control for personal activities as well as increased flexibility for social activities within limited interior spaces. As a decline in mobility is commonplace for those with high needs, greater attention is needed to resident walkability. Improvements in QoL can be achieved both through a reorganisation of the home and through bridging the home with the wider community and in doing so, facilitating meaningful activities and relationships.

Author Information
Yukiko Kuboshima, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Jacqueline McIntosh, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
Geoff Thomas, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand

Paper Information
Conference: AGen2018
Stream: Aging and Gerontology

This paper is part of the AGen2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon