MOVAGE Moving in Old Age: Transitions in Housing and Care

The research project receives funding from the Academy of Finland (ASU-LIVE Future of Living and Housing Research Programme 2011–2015).

Project description

In gerontological research, the study of the environmental contexts of ageing has a long-standing tradition and it has currently re-emerged as a topic of interest. Research has convincingly shown that 'place matters', i.e. that the environment and housing solutions play a significant role in the well-being, health and social participation of older peoople. However, research and social policy has largely focused on studying and supporting 'ageing in place', while in practice a large number of older people choose or are forced to move every year. The MOVAGE project studies older people's housing and moving decisions and experiences, factors related to these decisions, and the meaning of the living environment for well-being. The aim of the project is to produce findings that contribute to the development of housing policy as well as social and health care policy. The project has several national and international collaborators.

Theoretical framework

The central concepts of the project are agency and 'housing pathways' (Clapham 2005, 2010). The concept of housing pathways emphasises that when analysing older people's housing, it is important to study not just structural factors but also individual biographies and decision-making as well as cultural and environmental issues. The perspective adopted here underlines the importance of understanding older people as agents who make and have a right to make their own decisions about their living environment. However, agency is not equated here with 'free choice' but it refers to being enabled and constrained by several factors. Moving can be voluntary or involuntary for older people. Moving decisions can be linked to individual preferences and values, but also to material and social resources, housing policies, care service policies and social and cultural age stereotypes.

Research questions

The research project studies moving experiences and issues that make people consider moving and to move in old age. In particular, the project looks at the role played by current and anticipated care needs, health, social relations and welfare provisions in moving decisions. In addition, the project studies patterns of moving in old age, and how the flows of older people are distributed between different forms of housing and between ordinary and residential housing.

Research design and methodology

The research project employs existing qualitative and quantitative datasets. The qualitative data comprises interview data gathered from older people aged 75+ (N=47, moving histories, experiences and reasons for moving, University of Jyväskylä, Autumn 2011–Spring 2012), face-to-face interviews with working caregivers of older people (N=76, the WOCAWO Project, University of Jyväskylä, 2009), and narratives on the meanings of home written by retired people (N=227, The Finnish Literature Society, Folklore Archives, 2003–2005). In addition, the project conducts a case study in a communal-based senior housing unit in Helsinki (ongoing) on experiences of living in the community and anticipated care needs. The quantitative data comprises survey data of people aged 75+ (N=1436, Universities of Jyväskylä and Tampere 2010), a HYPA 79+ survey on care, housing needs and the use of welfare services (N=391, the National Institute for Health and Welfare, 2009), and statistical data on moving.

By using different datasets and methods of analysis, the aim is to illuminate the topic of study from different perspectives. The methods of analysis will include a set of different qualitative (content analysis, discourse analysis, narrative analysis) and quantitative methods.


With different datasets, the project aims to generate knowledge on moving experiences, reasons for moving, and the meanings of the place of living for well-being. In addition, the project generates knowledge on social and cultural norms and views linked to older people's housing and living arrangements, and population-level knowledge of the moving patterns of older people. The practical aim of the project is to generate in-depth knowledge about the connections between housing and ageing that contribute to the development of housing policy and social and healthcare services to better meet the needs of older people. The project combines approaches from social and environmental gerontology, health research, social policy, housing research and disability studies.