Neighbourliness in old age – on the day-to-day utilisation of space and social networking

A project on real-life and micro-longitudinal measuring: The role of a neighbour (individual), neighbourliness (society), and the neighbourhood (space)

Diagram: Neighbourhood
Diagram: Neighbourhood

The neighbourhood a person lives in can be described using a spatial or social context; not only the interactions with physical structures that take place in a neighbourhood, but also the social interactions with neighbours. Every person lives in this kind of spatial-social context. Ideally, the physical/social space, should be considered a resource to help an individual cope with daily life. The perception of this effect can have very individual results, which is why an individual assessment, relating to everyday life, is so important. Consequently, it also makes sense to examine, or rather measure, the influence of the neighbourhood in real-life conditions. This perspective enables us to observe individual persons, and their respective resources, in order to expose the extent of how contextual circumstances influence the quality of life, within a neighbourhood. That is why it is interesting and possible in daily life – thanks to today smartphones and their mobile data harvesting capabilities (cf. project "MoReLIFE" ) – to (a) observe and (b) question, over a longer period of time, what it is that helps people to cope with daily life. When considering this, it is important to go beyond an extensive observation and analysis of the current state – it is also about determining influential factors considering the interplay of the three dimensions: space, society, and the individual.

For the purpose of analysis a neighbourhood can be split into three dimensions (cf. graph):

a.     Neighbour (german: "Nachbar")

b.     Neighbourliness (german: "Nachbarschaftlichkeit")

c.     Neighbourhood (german: "Nachbarschaft")

The purpose of the main project will be real-life and real-time gathering of subjective and objective data about the meaning of the neighbourhood for the elderly, using a micro-longitudinal approach. The main question is what influence the three factors (individual – neighbour, society – neighbourliness, space – neighbourhood) have on the stability of an individual's quality of life during old age. Additionally, on a structural level, it is essential to draw a comparison between the actual utilisation of the physical and social space, and the potential configurations of the neighbourhood.

In order to answer the research questions, the main project (N = approx. 90) will be about collecting data from individuals, over the age of 60, in three selected neighbourhoods. The data collection will be conducted using the "Ambulatory Assessment" approach and will be implemented as a micro-longitudinal data collection (at least four weeks).

The aim is to answer the following research questions:

  • What impact does the immediate residential environment (neighbourhood) have on the stability of a senior's quality of life considering the spatial, the social, and the personal dimensions?
  • Is the immediate residential environment (neighbourhood) recognised as a day-to-day resource to cope with daily life?
  • To what extent does this enable working out theoretically and empirically derivable predictors or parameters for successful aging, and to what extent can these be transferred to a resource model?
  • Is the applied methodology of mobile data harvesting via smartphones viable with this target audience or rather, are the results thereof valid and applicable to further research questions?

Beside the main project, secondary analyses of existing data are planned:

  • Neighbourhood and willingness to relocate
  • Neighbourhood contacts and assistance (focus on informal assistance)
  • Neighbourhood social networks in an urban town
  • Emotional and practical support through neighbours in Switzerland
  • Utilisation of and support through neighbours in the neighbourhood in Europe
  • (Technical assistance system to create a neighbourhood network)

10/2015 – 12/2018