Environments for healthy ageing: a critical review

Maturitas. 2009 Sep 20;64(1):14-9. doi: 10.1016/j.maturitas.2009.07.011. Epub 2009 Aug 19.

Abstract

Population health outcomes are shaped by complex interactions between individuals and the environments in which they live, work and play. Environments encompass streets and buildings (physical environment), attitudes, supports and relationships with others (social environment), as well as social and political systems and policies. The impact of environments on the physical, mental health and functioning of individuals has emerged as a growing body of research in population health and health disparities. Yet, the majority of studies in this area do not focus on older adults even though older adults are particularly susceptible to the characteristics of their local environments. In this paper we review the current state of the health literature on physical environments for healthy ageing, using the International Classification of Functioning Disability and Health as a framework. Collectively, the literature emphasizes the role of supportive, barrier-free environments particularly for older adults who are at greater risk for disability and poor health. As part of our review we identify conceptual as well as methodological limitations in the current literature, including (i) a theoretical and empirical neglect of the underlying mechanisms behind the person-environment relationship; (ii) a lack of studies using nationally representative samples; (iii) over-reliance on cross-sectional data; and (iv) a need for better definition and measurement of person-centered environments. We conclude by offering some suggestions and directions for future research in this area.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging*
  • Environment*
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Research Design / standards*
  • Social Environment*