Aging in Place During a Pandemic: Neighborhood Engagement and Environments Since the COVID-19 Pandemic Onset

Gerontologist. 2022 Apr 20;62(4):504-518. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnab169.


Background and objectives: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may fundamentally change neighborhood environments and ways of aging in place. This research aimed to investigate perceptions of and engagement in neighborhoods since the pandemic onset among aging Americans.

Research design and methods: Data were from the COVID-19 Coping Study, a longitudinal cohort study of health and well-being of U.S. adults aged 55 years or older during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the present analysis, we conducted a qualitative thematic analysis of responses to an open-ended survey question about how respondents felt that COVID-19 has affected their neighborhood and relationships with neighbors. The survey data were collected June-September 2020 and analyzed for a random-stratified subsample of 1,000 study participants. Sampling quotas for age, gender, race/ethnicity, and education aimed to match the U.S. population aged 55 years or older (average age: 67.7 years).

Results: We identified 4 overarching themes: altered neighborly social interactions, support levels, and community environments; and no observed changes. Geographic factors that affected neighborhood engagement included age structure, sociopolitical diversity, urbanicity/rurality, and walkability; while individual factors included age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, political orientation, health status, duration of residence, lifestyle, and personality.

Discussion and implications: The results highlight resilience among aging adults and their neighbors, sources of individual and community vulnerability, and opportunities to strengthen social infrastructure to support aging in place since the pandemic onset.

Keywords: Civic life; Environmental gerontology; Person–place fit; Qualitative thematic analysis; United States.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Independent Living
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Pandemics
  • Residence Characteristics