Flourishing ‘older-old’ (80+) adults: Personal projects and their enabling places

Jenny Roe*, Mark Blythe, Caroline Oliver, Alice Roe

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper sets out a framework for exploring flourishing in older age through the lens of what older adults are doing in their lives. Applying a model from positive psychology called personal project analysis (PPA) our study captures a snapshot of older people's goals and their environmental context. Targeting older people aged 80+ we applied PPA methods in a semi-structured interview to elicit participants’ personal projects which were scored on eight wellbeing dimensions (e.g., fun, stress). Qualitative data analysis identified what types of personal projects are employed by this older demographic and the environments in which they are carried out. Results showed our participants were vitally engaged in a wide spectrum of projects exercised in a range of ‘enabling places’ which we categorised as (1) restorative niches (places that afford psychological restoration) such as nature settings (e.g. a garden, local park or riverside); (2) affinity niches (places that afford social opportunities) such as religious venues, social clubs, or cafés; and (3) flow niches (places that afford immersion in mental or physical tasks) such as the home (e.g. the kitchen) or a place associated with a previous career or amateur sport (e.g. cricket club). Our findings are discussed in relation to older people's wellbeing and the role of the built environment. Despite the increasingly negative stereotyping of the ‘older-old’ our study shows that the final decades of life can be a period of continuing growth and learning, a life stage with its own distinct character, rather than a period of decline.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100072
Number of pages11
JournalWellbeing, Space and Society
Early online date27 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2022


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