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Wooncomplexen voor ouderen: Sociale kwaliteit ontstaat niet vanzelf.

Authors:

Anja Machielse ,

Prof. dr. Anja Machielse is professor “Empowerment of Vulnerable older Adults” at the University of Humanistic Studies. Her research is focused on older persons who are less able to deal with the complexity of daily life, social vulnerability, relational involvement and meaningfulness., NL
About Anja

Prof. dr. Anja Machielse is professor “Empowerment of Vulnerable older Adults” at the University of Humanistic Studies. Her research is focused on older persons who are less able to deal with the complexity of daily life, social vulnerability, relational involvement and meaningfulness.

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Wander van der Vaart,

Dr. Wander van der Vaart is associate professor research methodology at the University of Humanistic Studies. His main research interests are in “meaning in life” studies and methods of data collection, in particular as focused on hard-to-study populations., NL
About Wander

Dr. Wander van der Vaart is associate professor research methodology at the University of Humanistic Studies. His main research interests are in “meaning in life” studies and methods of data collection, in particular as focused on hard-to-study populations.

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Pien Bos

Dr. Pien Bos is a cultural anthropologist, working at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. Her research is focused on ageing well and meaning in life., NL
About Pien

Dr. Pien Bos is a cultural anthropologist, working at the University of Humanistic Studies in Utrecht. Her research is focused on ageing well and meaning in life.

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Abstract

Wooncomplexen voor ouderen: sociale kwaliteit ontstaat niet vanzelf

De Nederlandse overheid stimuleert dat ouderen zo lang mogelijk zelfstandig blijven wonen. De meeste ouderen willen dit ook, mits aan bepaalde voorwaarden is voldaan. Ze hebben vooral behoefte aan een levendige woonomgeving waarin ze gemakkelijk kunnen participeren en contacten kunnen leggen. Dit sociale aspect is voor veel mensen een belangrijke reden om naar een wooncomplex voor ouderen te verhuizen. Corporaties concentreren zich echter op fysieke en materiële aspecten van het wonen; versterking van de sociale kwaliteit wordt aan de bewoners zelf overgelaten.

Om inzicht te krijgen in de mogelijkheden van ouderen om de sociale kwaliteit van hun wooncomplex te vergroten, is het experiment “Vitale woongemeenschappen” uitgevoerd in tien wooncomplexen voor ouderen, verspreid over Nederland. Het experiment is geëvalueerd middels een (kwantitatieve) nul- en nameting en een kwalitatief onderzoek. Het onderzoek maakt duidelijk dat sociale kwaliteit in een wooncomplex niet vanzelf ontstaat en dat er grenzen zijn aan het zelforganiserende vermogen van bewoners. Hoewel veel bewoners behoefte hebben aan activiteiten en sociale contacten in hun complex, voelen de meesten zich niet in staat om zelf activiteiten te organiseren of bewoners te activeren. Beroepskrachten zijn noodzakelijk om het vitaliseringsproces op gang te brengen en continuïteit te garanderen.

 

 

Residential complexes for seniors: social quality does not occur spontaneously

Background

The Dutch government encourages older people to live independently for as long as possible. Most seniors also prefer to remain self-reliant, provided that certain conditions are met. In particular, they need a lively environment in which they can easily participate in social activities and make social contact. This social aspect is an important incentive for people to move to housing complexes for seniors. Contact with fellow residents and social participation within the housing complex are important determinants for their well-being. However, housing corporations concentrate on the physical and material aspects of housing, while welfare projects and activity guidance are being phased out.

 

Problem statement

Residents of housing complexes for seniors are assumed to be capable of developing and maintaining social relations, and social activities are helpful in this regard. Various studies show, however, that opportunities for organizing activities are not evenly distributed among groups of citizens. The self-organizing capacity of residents in complexes with a low socio-economic status remains underdeveloped. Even among individuals with good organizational abilities, these skills decrease as they age or require more care. To gain an insight into the opportunities for older people themselves to increase the social quality of their residential complexes, the “Vital Living Communities” experiment was carried out in ten housing complexes for seniors, spread across the Netherlands. In the experiment, residents and professionals from housing corporations worked together to strengthen their communities using a particular method, named Studio BRUIS. The goal of this intervention was to improve the quality of social interaction in the residential complexes concerned. The research aimed to provide insight into the contribution of older people to improving the quality of social interaction in housing complexes for seniors. Two indicators for the quality of social interaction were defined: 1) social participation (do residents actively participate in social activities?); 2) social solidarity (do residents know each other and feel connected to each other?).

 

Methods

An evaluation of this experiment was conducted through baseline and follow-up measurements using a questionnaire in combination with qualitative fieldwork. For the purposes of the baseline and follow-up measurements in this research, a standardized questionnaire was developed focusing on the main themes of the experiment. These quantitative measurements provide an overall insight into the quality of social interaction in the ten residential complexes, as well as insight into any changes in the social atmosphere during the experiment. The measurements also reveal the background to the qualitative aspect of the research, in which the researchers had a more intense contact with the residents involved to find out their perspectives on and experiences with the experiment. The combination of in-depth interviews and participant observations provided knowledge about the existing dynamics in the complexes and the extent to which the experiment was aligned with the activity setting. The qualitative study was carried out in four of the ten participating residential complexes and, in addition to participant observations and individual in-depth interviews, documents were analysed and group interviews were carried out.

The analysis of the quantitative material focused primarily on those respondents who participated in both the baseline measurement and the post-test. The qualitative material (interview transcripts, “thick descriptions”, reports of group interviews and informal conversations) was encoded and analysed using MaxQda12. The findings were discussed in the focus groups in which residents and professionals from all participating residential complexes took part (“member check”).

 

Conclusion

The research provides insight into the possibilities and limitations of the self-organizing capacity of residents of housing complexes for seniors. The baseline measurement showed that two-thirds of the residents participated in activities in their complex, but that only a few residents were motivated to participate in organizing and managing these activities. This was confirmed by the findings of the qualitative research. The main reasons for residents not becoming active as organizers was their lack of knowledge and organizational skills, thinking of themselves as too old, limitations caused by health problems, and lack of interest in organizing activities for others.
Residents who were willing to actively engage in social activities in their residential complex appeared to depend on a facilitating professional to provide ideas, think about implementation and ensure continuity. The professional helped initiate the process, set goals, make plans and implement these, and motivate other residents. But even once activities were up and running, professional support remained necessary because plans often worked out differently in practice. Residents wanted to be able to exchange ideas with someone who could steer the process to some extent and lead them in the right direction. The assistance of professionals was also indispensable when dealing with the resistance or conflicts that inevitably occur during a process of change.

The research revealed that social vitalization requires motivated residents who want to act according to the pace and needs of other residents and who appreciate small successes. Strengthening the quality of social interaction also requires harmonization with the cultural context (“activity setting”) of the residential complex. Goals that do not fit the existing situation, or unrealistic plans that never get off the ground, are demotivating.
Social vitalization in residential complexes for older adults is a gradual process of change that requires permanent support from active residents and professionals. The self-confidence of the active residents increases when their plans are a success, but this happens in small steps. Professional support is needed to start the vitalization process, to guide and make it sustainable.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.18352/jsi.561
How to Cite: Machielse, A., van der Vaart, W. and Bos, P., 2018. Wooncomplexen voor ouderen: Sociale kwaliteit ontstaat niet vanzelf.. Journal of Social Intervention: Theory and Practice, 27(6), pp.24–47. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/jsi.561
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Published on 17 Oct 2018.
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