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Research Urban and Regional Studies Institute PRC

Family events, housing and well-being at older ages

Principal Researcher

Daniel J. Herbers

Type of Research

PhD Project


Professor Clara H. Mulder and Dr Louise Meijering

Summary of the project

The title of the project is “Family events, housing and well-being at older ages.” In this project, different relations between family, housing and well-being will be studied. Up to now these relations are mainly studied at one moment in time, but in this project the long-term impact of certain events and situations on these relations will get attention, i.e. how do certain changes work out at older ages.

Currently, many societies face ageing populations. Countries have larger shares of older people within their borders because younger cohorts are smaller than older cohorts and older cohorts survive until later ages. Moreover, many older people remain living independent in their own home until later ages. In the context of independent living family and housing are two domains that become increasingly important. The aim of this project is therefore to gain a better understanding of the housing situation and well-being of older people. The relationships between family, housing and well-being are explored in four different studies.

In the first paper, we study how changes and events in the family and housing domains influence individual housing choices at later ages. In the second paper we study how family and housing situations are related to SWB in different European countries. In the third paper we try to find out how a certain housing context will affect the relationship between social life and well-being. Finally, in the fourth paper we will project dynamics on the Dutch housing market by looking at different scenarios for older people’s housing choices and well-being.


Moving out of home ownership

The first article was accepted for publication in Housing Studies and can be found here:

Home ownership is often regarded as the preferred housing tenure; however, situations in parallel life course careers might make moving to a rental home necessary or attractive to home owners. Retrospective data from the SHARELIFE survey were used to study the short-term and long-term impact of situations and disruptions in the family and housing careers on leaving home ownership at middle (45-64) and older ages (65-80) in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands. We found that directly after separation and widowhood the likelihood of leaving home ownership was the greatest. However, more than ten years after separation and widowhood, individuals were still significantly more likely to leave ownership than those in their first marriage. Furthermore, late first childbirth and early first time home ownership were associated with lower chances of leaving home ownership. We conclude that situations and changes in family and housing careers have both a short-term and a long-term impact on the likelihood of moving out of home ownership.

European differences in factors associated with older people’s well-being

The second article is submitted to a journal.

The study addresses how the relation between family and housing situations and older adults’ subjective well-being varies across Europe. The findings show that family and housing are important for older Europeans’ SWB. It was found that the impact of family and housing situations on SWB varies between European regions with contextual differences. Stronger individualistic values in northern Europe are likely to be responsible for a negative impact of co-residence on SWB. Moreover, stronger norms in favour of home ownership could be the cause of a larger positive impact of home ownership on SWB in southern Europe. Furthermore, more generous welfare provision in northern Europe could be the cause of a smaller negative impact of widowhood on SWB in that region.

Interpersonal relationships and subjective well-being in sheltered housing

The third study is in progress.

Sheltered housing is a setting in which older people have care and assistance available from a nearby care-facility but otherwise live independently. Sheltered housing is often mentioned to combine the best elements of care facilities and neighbourhood communities. In this qualitative study we will examine the context of sheltered housing influences how interpersonal relationships contribute to older people’s well-being.


Herbers, D. J. , Mulder, C. H. , & Mòdenes, J. A. (2014). Moving Out of Home Ownership in Later Life: The Influence of the Family and Housing Careers . Housing Studies . DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2014.923090

Last modified:01 December 2016 12.08 p.m.