9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN01 Ageing in Europe

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Neighbourhood Building II, C5.08

Exploring the sense of neighbourhood: personal resources, opportunities and constraints - Evidence from the Belgian Aging Study

Aging is often associated with an intensification of feelings about place and local community. Most research dealing with concepts such as "neighbourhood attachment" and "sense of community" has observed that older people show a stronger sense of neighbourhood than their younger contemporaries. This paper proposes, building on earlier work dealing with spatial aspects of citizenship, that it may be useful to differentiate not only between, but also within social groups and stages of life. Various authors stress that there are different types of local community attachment, each reflecting different combinations of resources, personal needs and places in which people live. However, the extent to which older people differ in the way they integrate in local communities has received minimal research attention. From the perspective of critical gerontology, this paper examines the degree to which variation in local community attachment can be explained through significant inequalities within the older population.
Methods and materials: Using data generated from the Belgian Aging Study (N=46.989) a multivariate regression model was tested with socio-demographic characteristics, personal resources, physical and psychosocial aspects of vulnerability as independent variables, and a local community attachment scale as dependent variable.
Results: Multivariate regression analysis revealed that age is not significantly related to local community attachment, calling into question the widely accepted idea that a person?s attachment increases with age. The findings indicate that psychosocial aspects of vulnerability, particularly loneliness and feelings of insecurity, are the strongest negative predictors of community attachment. Length of residence is significantly related to increased attachment, whereas physical frailty and the need for everyday mobility assistance have a significant inhibiting effect.
Conclusion: Further exploration of variation in local community attachment - each reflecting different combinations of personal and environmental opportunities and constraints - may provide deeper insights into the dynamics of late-life inequality.