The natural, behavioral, and built environment of the home and quality of life as perceived by older people
The study was undertaken to explore the relationship of the perceptions of older people of the natural, behavioral, and built environment of the home setting and their perceptions of quality of life within that environment. Specific variables investigated were privacy, personalization of space, territoriality, independent accessibility, and quality of life within the home setting. A qualitative, phenomenological methodology was employed using a focus group interview format. Older people, 65 years and older, living independently in a noninstitutional, home environment were interviewed.
Purposive sampling was used to provide a nonprobability respondent group of 40 homogeneous individuals. The sample was predominately Caucasian, female, educated, and economically comfortable. Six focus groups, with 6 to 10 subjects per group, were conducted in the southeast Texas area. Participants were members of intact senior social organizations. Interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. The researcher was assisted by an observer-moderator to ensure credibility of data collection.
Collected data were analyzed using Spradley's (1979) method of interview analysis which searches for semantic relationships among the data through in-depth thematic analysis. The study revealed three significant themes: (a) privacy, personalizing one's space, and claiming one's territory contribute to quality of life within the home environment; (b) independence and autonomy within the home contributes to quality of life, although, seeking and utilizing the resources necessary to maintain an autonomous environment is often delayed until needed; and (c) the quality of the physical home environment and quality of life are interdependent and reflect the phenomenological experience of the individual.
The study was an attempt, through the use of qualitative research methods, to explore the environment-behavior relationship as perceived by older people in their home settings. The findings of the study support existing theoretical perspectives. The results of this study have implications for the aging population, their families and caregivers, family-life professionals, educators, interior space planners, and family policymakers in establishing healthy home environments for older people. Replication of the study and further research in this area is recommended to increase both credibility (internal validity) and transferability (external validity) in the qualitative arena.