Dimensions of the Meaning of Home in Later Life

The meaning of home in later life provides a perfect example of how strongly "objective" contextual factors and "subjective" representations are linked as people age. Although a considerable body of research has been published on the meaning of home among elders, the literature is still plagued by pronounced conceptual and empirical diversity. This makes it difficult for a broader audience to appreciate what has already been achieved by researchers in this field and hinders an understanding of what "aging in place" is all about. With this in mind, the first aim of this chapter is to clarify basic issues, namely: the relationship of house and home, and the need to understand the meaning of home within a life-span developmental context. The second aim is to review and synthesize major conceptualizations of meaning of home in old age which have been suggested in environmental psychology and environmental gerontology. The third aim is to present a selection of our own empirical findings concerned with the meaning of home in old age.