Residential mobility in later life : a study of the moving decisions of older people in Newcastle upon Tyne.
nus thesis is an exploration of the residential mobility and non-mobility of a selection of older people
living in Newcastle upon Tyne. The research develops an understanding of behaviour through
examining the experiences, perceptions and views of older people themselves.
The UK is experiencing a demographic shift towards an older population, with a growth in the number
of older people in both absolute and proportional terms. Despite this trend, the needs, complexities and
benefits of an ageing population are yet to be fully realised. Housing is a key component of life,
furthermore, moving or not moving in old age affects not only the older person involved but also has
wider consequences for society. There remains a need to develop an understanding of residential
mobility of older people which in tum can contribute to academic debate and aid the development of
successful housing and social policy.
Most geographical studies of older people have focused on retirement migration, centring on long
distance moves or moves into supported housing (such as residential care). Very little research has
examined residential mobility at the local scale, moreover, many studies have investigated actual
moves and have consequently neglected the study of non-moves or ageing in place. Research
conducted into the residential mobility of older people has predominantly relied on quantitative
approaches. Whilst recognising that quantitative studies have yielded some useful insights, it is argued
in this thesis that to gain a deeper understanding, qualitative methods are necessary. It thereby
responds to recent calls for new approaches to the study of population geography and residential
mobility which incorporate methods allowing sensitivity to context, diversity, difference and biography.
A qualitative approach with an emergent design was therefore adopted in the research in order to allow
individuals to express their feelings, experiences and perceptions regarding the home and moving in
later life. In-depth interviews were conducted with 37 older people from two study areas in the city
and provided a rich source of information encompassing the ageing milieu. Life histories were
recorded to enable decisions made in later life to be placed in the context of the whole life experience.
It emerged that housing decisions are formed and reformed out of the vast experiences and processes
taking place in individual's lives. The reasons behind moving were found to be numerous and elaborate
in that they rarely acted alone, were inter-linked and often specific to the context of each person.
Influences on decisions around moving/non-moves are grouped into three main themes: firstly, the
internal and external environment; secondly, home, community and family; and thirdly, health, well
being and ageing. Both the physical and psychological aspects of the home and the neighbourhood
were important, as were friends, family and health, each playing a part in residential mobility. The
role of place (home and neighbourhood) as a site of memories, attachment and experiences emerged, as
did the interaction of place with identity, independence and control.
The complexity and diversity behind individuals' reasons for staying or moving are indicated
throughout the thesis. The study emphasises the necessity of recognising such complexity and
multiplicity in housing choices, and contends that the qualitative methods adopted allowed this
diversity to emerge, providing originality in the research. The thesis makes an important contribution
to understanding housing choices made in later life, highlights the need to recognise the heterogeneity
existing in old age, and contributes to the current policy debates surrounding housing and community