A Qualitative Study of African American Elders’ Housing in Relation to their Well-being

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A Qualitative Study of African American Elders’ Housing in Relation to their Well-being

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The primary focus of this exploratory study was to determine how the interaction of human characteristics and the physical and social environment characteristics of home affect well-being among African American elders. An Ecological Model of Aging was used to investigate this issue and included components of the physical and social environments and demographics of the sample. Physical environment characteristics investigated included housing type, housing tenure, and neighborhood. Social environment characteristics investigated included sense of community, place attachment, and safety. Typically, these characteristics are defined by the perspective of the dominant group of people who are studied. Minority groups’ perspectives are not often represented in research literature, given ancillary attention, or interpreted/misinterpreted by well-informed and well-intentioned individuals who may lack race consciousness or understanding of institutional racism. To resolve this issue, a qualitative research study was completed using data collected from 17 African American adults aged 65 years and older who live in non-institutionalized, community-based housing in Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Physical environment findings indicate housing type and tenure have a strong influence on African American elders’ overall well-being. Social environment findings suggest participants’ sense of place and where they live deeply impact their identity and satisfaction. It was also determined that there is interaction between the physical and social environments, which supports the Ecological Model of Aging. The socioeconomic status and security of a safe, decent, and affordable home, in a supportive and amenity-rich community, were also found to influence participants’ well-being. Ancillary to the study’s findings, this research also demonstrates the importance of race-centered research, suggesting racism be appropriately included as a form of environmental press in the Ecological Model of Aging theoretical framework. This study’s findings further suggest that to reduce disparities, researchers and policy decision makers must understand aspirations, needs, and challenges of African Americans and recognize the critical role of the homeplace in buffering the negative effects of racism, and, for those who are African American and poor, to buffer the negative effects of racism and poverty.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2017. Major: Design, Housing and Apparel. Advisor: Marilyn Bruin. 1 computer file (PDF); x, 140 pages.

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Smoot, Amanda. (2017). A Qualitative Study of African American Elders’ Housing in Relation to their Well-being. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy, https://hdl.handle.net/11299/188886.

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