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The role of housing space in determining freedom and flourishing in older people

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Rose Gilroy



This paper takes as its central thesis Martha Nussbaum's normative proposition that social arrangements should be evaluated primarily according to the extent of freedom people have to promote or achieve functionings they value. Using this as a lens the paper explores the housing circumstances of older people in the UK. The paper makes three points. Firstly, given that people use their homes to structure and manage their lives, the design, quality and standard of their home is therefore a critical factor in determining their "doings and beings" [Sen: 1992, Inequality Re-examined (Clarendon Press, Oxford) p. 40]. Since older people are more likely to spend greater time within the home through lower income, lessening mobility or loss of companions, this may be of greater significance to them than other age groups. Secondly the paper argues that the design of "specialist" dwellings for older people where there is a shifting balance between housing and care has played a part in shaping the thinking about the position and status of older people as well as providing a material context in which older people live [Laws: 1994, Environment and Planning A 26: pp. 1787-1802]. This paper suggests that this context may alter or deny many aspects of life that may be meaningful to individuals and therefore may inhibit rather than promote human flourishing. The paper draws mainly on a small qualitative study in which older people spoke of their home and its meaning. Quotations from this work are given in italics. © Springer 2005.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Gilroy RC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Social Indicators Research

Year: 2005

Volume: 74

Issue: 1

Pages: 141-158

ISSN (print): 0303-8300

ISSN (electronic): 1573-0921

Publisher: Springer Netherlands


DOI: 10.1007/s11205-005-6520-5


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