In recent years, the Boston Housing Authority (BHA) discovered that nearly 40% of the seniors (residents aged 62 and over) living in their public housing developments were living in family housing developments rather than in senior/disabled housing developments. Administrators at the BHA were aware that some seniors lived in family developments, but they were committed to learning more systematically about this population and their needs. They turned to the Gerontology Institute at the University at Massachusetts Boston as a partner in this effort. With funding from the Boston Foundation, the collaboration resulted in a research and policy development effort on which this document reports.
This collaborative activity includes both research and service planning. As part of the research plan, we obtained information on the older population living in family developments through a variety of sources, including site visits, informal discussions with residents and on-site managers, and finally through a survey of older residents. To facilitate service planning, we established an advisory committee including representatives of the BHA, residents, health care and aging services providers, and the UMass Gerontology Institute (see Appendix A for a list of participants). This committee met during the initial phase of the project in order to provide guidance regarding the research effort. The committee met again following the completion of the research in order to discuss the results and contribute to the planning process for addressing the needs of elders living in family public housing.
Several goals guided the research. First, we sought to profile the characteristics and special needs of seniors living in family housing, in terms of both their physical and their social needs, and to determine the extent to which family housing is providing an environment conducive to meeting those needs. We sought to examine the ways in which family housing could be made more suitable for successfully aging in place, and to estimate the extent to which elders currently living in family housing are interested in moving to senior housing, where the services are more readily available. Finally, we sought to examine the ways in which existing social networks shape older residents’ needs for services and their interest in moving to alternative sites.
Mutchler, Jan and Caro, Francis G., "Seniors in Public Housing" (2003). Gerontology Institute Publications. Paper 32.