Journal article

The built environment and older adults: a literature review and an applied approach to engaging older adults in built environment improvements for health

Healthy ageing Community participation Buildings Social change

Aims and objectives: This paper presents a review of the literature about the built environment as it impacts the health of older people. It then introduces the gerontological nurse and researcher to the Our Voice framework for engaging older people as citizen scientists in order to empower them as agents of change in improving their local built environment and ultimately advancing community health.

Background: Community-level strategies to promote successful ageing in place are critical both to optimising health outcomes and containing healthcare costs. Such strategies must take into account the influence of the built environment both on individual health behaviours and on overall community health. At the same time, the perspectives and experiences of older people themselves ought to inform policies and practices in a systematic way.

Design: Integrative literature review.

Method: A wide scan of English language articles published in the EMBASE, PubMed and CINAHL bibliographic databases was conducted. Additional articles were sourced by mining relevant reference lists (i.e., snowball sampling). Papers included were published between 2005 and 2016.

Results: Three distinct components emerged from the review: the impact of the built environment on health—in particular the health of older persons; citizen science and its applicability for older people research; and the promise of the Our Voice citizen science framework to activate changes in the built environment that improve older peoples’ health.

Conclusion: The ageing ofthe world’s population brings with it an increased population level risk of chronic disease and disability. We present the Our Voice framework, developed by researchers at Stanford University, as a promising strategy for engaging and empowering older people as citizen scientists, as a framework to apply to gerontological nursing and improving community health. Implications for practice: Gerontology nurses are encouraged to: (i) Recognise the impact of the built environment and other community-level factors on the health of their patients. (ii) Encourage older adults to take an active role in documenting features of their environments that promote or hinder healthy living. (iii) Support policies and programmes that promote healthy environments.

KEYWORDS ageing in place, built environment, citizen science, community engagement, gerontological nursing, older people nursing

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