Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Social Work

First Advisor

Leslie Hasche, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Nicole Nicotera

Third Advisor

Jennifer C. Greenfield


Aging in place, Housing, Older adults


Many American older adults with low incomes wait years for affordable housing or housing assistance. Insight is needed on the concerns of older adults who need to move but cannot. In addition, within the study of aging in place, there is a paucity of research regarding older adults with low incomes. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and experiences of aging in place from the perspective of older adults with low incomes, and to understand the process in making the decision to move to agesegregated housing. The purpose incorporated an examination of potential oppressive factors that may have impacted the ability of older adults to live where they choose as they grow older. The frameworks of critical gerontology and the ecological model of aging informed and guided the work of this study.

The methodology of this mixed methods study followed an explanatory sequential design. The sample included 45 older adults between the ages of 62 and 89 who are on waitlists for low-income housing communities or housing assistance programs. Sixteen participants completed individual, in-depth interviews, nine of whom also participated in a photo journaling experience. Interpretative phenomenological analysis was used.

Results reveal that the majority (71%) of the participants decided to move without the assistance of another. Some of the reasons participants needed to move included finding a safer place to live and to be in closer proximity to family or health care providers. The results suggested that this group of older adults considered aging in place a concept that can evolve and that does not necessarily mean staying within the same place. This group of older adults shared that the ideal place to grow older provides access to outside space and is a place that offers a sense of belonging. Participants discussed the need for family and service providers to understand the difficulty of being in a situation of liminality for an extended period of time and of experiencing multiple types of losses. Although half of the participants expressed that oppressive factors did not affect their ability to reside where they choose as older adults, most of this group shared stories of how oppression and discrimination affected their lives.

This study sheds light on concerns and challenges older adults with low incomes face when needing to move but are unable to. The findings from this study can inform social workers in developing spaces and policies that support the housing needs of older adults with low incomes. An implication for social work educators includes the incorporation of the multiple types of losses experienced by this group preceding and while awaiting stable housing into curricula. For social work practitioners in low-income housing communities, there is a need to be trained in mediation skills. In regard to policy, social workers can assist in developing task forces and initiatives to address temporary and transitional housing needs for those who must wait for years for available housing. Social workers can also play a role in the research of the use of interventions to address bullying or hostile living environments within public housing.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.


Received from ProQuest

Rights holder

Angela L. Lavery

File size

173 p.

File format





Social work, Gerontology, Aging