Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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The Role of Architectural Design in Enhancing Place Attachment for Older Adults in Retirement Communities

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posted on 2021-12-07, 23:13 authored by Shiran, Masoumeh

New Zealand, like many other countries, is experiencing a significant change in its population. According to Statistics New Zealand (2015), the number of people aged 65 and over (65+) is on the rise, having doubled since 1980, and the number is likely to double again by 2036 (Statistics New Zealand, 2013). Retirement villages are a relatively new residential-type that caters for this ageing population. Demand for this form of housing by a small but increasing number is influenced by the growth in the number of people living beyond retirement age and because of a lack of other appropriate alternatives. Relocating to such housing requires many residents to adjust to an entirely new environment and lifestyle. Place attachment is understood to support successful adjustment to a new condition, aiding older adults to age contentedly in their new surroundings and as a result, age in place.  This research highlights the relationships between architectural features and people’s sense of place attachment, arguing that place and space are important variables for how older adults feel about ageing in a retirement village. The key questions in this research are: What are the design features in planned retirement villages that can enhance the satisfaction of residents, the sense of place they feel and their attachment to it? Finding the answers to these questions requires understanding how a sense of place attachment develops, the degree to which each causal factor affects this sense, and also the effects between factors. A total of 22 residents of a recently completed retirement village in Wellington, all aged 65+, were recruited through purposive and snowballing sampling. Data were collected through a mixed-methods approach using photovoice and semi-structured interviews. The aim was to explore at two scales, those of the home and of the neighbourhood, the features of a physical environment that older adults consider important for enhancing place attachment and facilitating ageing in place.  The findings reveal that themes such as age-friendly design and autonomy related to the functionality of space (place dependence) were important in enhancing older adults attachment to place. Findings from this research also show that having an open/semi-open layout of internal space, large windows and plenty of sunlight, accessible large closet and storage space, shared/public green space and accessible and age-friendly design of entry, bathroom and kitchen area are features most participants found to be important in raising their sense of attachment to where they live.  This research suggests that retirement villages could be an option for older adults to age in place and to ensure that they can develop a sense of attachment it is important to hear their voice and engage potential users at an early stage in the design process.  The outcomes of this study could aid older adults when looking for a suitable retirement village or even alternative housing. They could also serve other researchers in the fields of gerontology, architecture and interior design to address the gap in the literature as to which physical features lead to enhancement of place attachment for the older generation.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Alternative Language


Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Gjerde, Morten