Professor Christine Stephens
The importance of housing and neighbourhoods for ageing well: Results from the NZHWR 18-year longitudinal study.
The Health and Ageing Research Team (HART) at Massey University is a multidisciplinary and cross-University group which conducts studies of the determinants of older people’s wellbeing. The flagship study of HART is the New Zealand Health and Retirement study (NZHWR), a longitudinal survey which has been following changes in the circumstances and wellbeing of older people for 18 years. The findings of this research are largely directed towards government and local authority policy change. This talk will be about one focus of the study: the important effects of the environment (housing and neighbourhoods) on the wellbeing of older people. We consider older people in terms of their diversity rather than as one homogenous population category and find that inequalities predict current living conditions such as housing and neighbourhoods, which in turn, impact on risks to well-being such as loneliness. Housing and neighbourhood qualities, including neighbourhood social cohesion, have been shown to predict quality of life, physical, mental, and social health, and be more strongly related to loneliness than individual and social participation variables. A recent analysis has additionally shown that older people can improve their quality of life by moving to a new house. This talk will explain the details of these findings and briefly discuss the policy implications for an ageing society.