|dc.description.abstract||This thesis explores how the physical and social environmental conditions of urban areas potentially influence active ageing among independently living older adults in Christchurch, New Zealand. The research coincided with the 2010 and 2011 Canterbury earthquakes, which introduced deleterious environmental changes. Few studies have investigated antecedent and emerging environmental influences on diverse activities that contribute to a holistic conceptualisation of health in later life.
Population ageing and urbanisation are developing trends in New Zealand, and Christchurch is at the forefront of these changes due to historic patterns of fertility, mortality, and migration. Societal dividends can be realised from these transitions if the environmental conditions of urban areas support activity and independence in later life. Active ageing provides a framework for realising the opportunities of population ageing through the promotion of behaviours and the adaptation of environments in ways that encourage health and participation at all ages and abilities. Active ageing is operationalised in this research as physical, social, cultural, civic, spiritual, and economic pursuits.
Study objectives include the identification of urban areas likely to influence active ageing, the examination of potential activity correlates, and the exploration of emplaced experiences during a period of environmental disruption. Founded upon the complementary paradigms of pragmatism and participatory action research (PAR), this study utilises a mixed methods design across three phases to address interrelated objectives. Collaboratively developed methods include Geographic Information Systems (GIS) analyses, systematic observations of study areas, surveys, activity diaries, photovoice, and focus group discussions. Research partners include eight project advisers and 355 adults aged 65 years or older who reside in 12 urban areas.
Study participants were generally active and healthy with preferences for physical, social, and cultural engagements undertaken in proximate settings and networks. Across three research phases, the results support prominent roles for physical and social environments as facilitators of and constraints to active ageing. Environmental influences are diverse and include elements of home, local environment, social network, and climate. Personal influences include a range of physiological, cognitive, and behavioural factors. The earthquakes of 2010 and 2011 created additional environmental and activity disruptions for many older adults and resulted in diverse expressions of vulnerability and resilience among the sample.
Concepts abstracted from the data inform the theory of navigated environmental performance. This model predicts that independently living older adults navigate personal circumstances and ubiquitous environmental barriers as resilient and autonomous agents to be active across urban areas. Opportunities for participation increase as settings become manifestly supportive by exhibiting combinations of malleability (adaptability of home), accessibility (availability and usability of local resources), amenity (attractiveness and age-appropriateness of proximate assets), social support (active and encouraging networks), and particularity (unique resources of areas). Older adults attempt to sustain participation even in settings that are unsympathetic to preference or ability, but risk inactivity and disablement arising from experiences of health and environmental change, social problems, or negative perceptions. This research prompted collaborative development of recommendations for urban environmental renewal and presentation to community stakeholders commensurate with a PAR process.||