No Shortage of Housing Problems But Who Decides?


The housing and care accommodations older persons occupy often have problems making it difficult for them to age successfully—that is, to enjoy healthy, independent, active, and happy lives.

At least, that is the conclusion of professionals and family members who profess concern for their wellbeing.

They identify the following groups of old whose quality of life is at risk because of where they live:

  • In dwellings with financially burdensome monthly occupancy costs
  • In older and overly large dwellings with unmet repair, maintenance, and home modification needs
  • In physically inaccessible and unsafe dwellings because of their stairs, hard-to-reach places, slippery, uneven, and cluttered floor surfaces
  • In neighborhoods and communities where it isn't easy to access food, shopping, health care, and other necessary everyday needs
  • In unsafe neighborhoods and communities because of their traffic conditions or crime
  • In dwellings where they feel alone and socially isolated
  • In dwellings where they have unmet needs for homemaker assistance or long-term care services and supports

But older persons often disagree.

They evaluate where they live far more positively. They ignore or downplay these problems and claim that the benefits outweigh any downsides. They are reluctant or slow to address their so-called housing and care challenges.

Most (especially homeowners) are not motivated to move from their current dwellings to accommodate new lifestyles, downsize their accommodations, or transition to a family member’s home or a long-term care facility.

Getting into Older People’s Heads: Residential Normalcy as the End Game

So, how do we explain this disconnect? If older people require more help than they admit, we must better understand what motivates their assessments. Then we might offer them more persuasive counterarguments for why they should deal with their housing and care problems.

That is why I constructed my “residential normalcy” theoretical model.

Older persons achieve “residential normalcy” when they report overall positive feelings about the places they live or receive care.

The psychological writings that inspired the model showed that throughout the world, the emotional experiences of older persons explained their responses to all types of their lived-in environments.

I distinguish two categories of emotional experiences to gauge whether older people achieve residential normalcy.

Read the rest of this piece at Booming Encore.

Stephen M. Golant, Ph.D., is a leading national speaker, author, and researcher on the housing, mobility, transportation, and long-term care needs of older adult populations. He is a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America, a Fulbright Senior Scholar award recipient, and Professor Emeritus at the University of Florida. Golant’s latest book is Aging in The Right Place, published by Health Professions Press. Contact him at