Examining Older Adults' Perspectives on the Built Environment and Correlates of Healthy Aging in an American Age-Friendly Community

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020 Sep 27;17(19):7056. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17197056.

Abstract

Population aging has led to an increased focus on the environmental context in which we age. While researchers have identified significant health benefits associated with built community features such as housing, transportation and outdoor spaces and buildings, less attention has focused on the correlates of healthy aging and other characteristics via the perspective of community-dwelling older adults. This study utilized cluster analysis to examine health-related subgroups of older adults (n = 598) in an age-friendly community located in the United States, of which nearly half of its residents are age 60 and older. Linear regression was used to associate the health clusters with perceptions of built environmental features and socio-demographics. Four distinct profiles were identified, with the greatest preference for housing and transportation found among those reporting poorer health compared to those reporting excellent health across multi-dimensional healthy aging measures. Perceptions on the importance of built environmental features were also found to vary by age, income and home accessibility status. Findings suggest that older adults' perceptions about built environmental features differ across health and home status as well as age and income, underscoring opportunities for public health action to better reach and engage older adults by life-course trajectories in age-friendly communities.

Keywords: active aging in place; environmental design; healthy aging; livable communities.