Source: UNIV OF MINNESOTA submitted to
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Accession No.
Grant No.
Project No.
Proposal No.
Multistate No.
Program Code
Project Start Date
Oct 1, 2008
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2012
Grant Year
Project Director
Bruin, M. J.
Recipient Organization
ST PAUL,MN 55108
Performing Department
Non Technical Summary
This study focuses on the residential situation and satisfaction of older persons. The purpose is to examine the economic well-being, housing and neighborhood characteristics, and housing satisfaction of older householders to develop recommendations for the development and management of housing to meet their needs and preferences. Papers and presentations will be developed for academic audiences. Furthermore, policy briefs will be issued through the Housing and Community Collaboratory in the College of Design.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
Goals / Objectives
Housing is a key determinant of quality of life (Campbell, Converse, & Rodgers, 1976). It is unique in its pervasive economic, social, psychological, and symbolic significance (Smizik & Stone; Stone, 1991). Housing and neighborhood conditions are linked with residential satisfaction which is an important component of quality of life or psychological well being (Lawton & Nahemow, 1979; McAuley & Offerle, 1983; Barresi, Ferraro, & Hobey, 1984; Schwirian & Schwirian, 1993). As adults experience physical limitations, the near environment becomes increasingly important psychologically (Lawton & Nahemow, 1979). In an examination of housing problems and their influence on housing satisfaction older householders reported higher housing satisfaction than non elderly householders (Crull,1994). Several demographic and neighborhood characteristics predict housing problems for specific groups of older individuals. Older African American homeowners are more likely than non elderly African American homeowners to live in units with a structural deficit. On all indicators of objective housing quality, women who head households are more likely than male householders to experience shelter deficits (Ahrentzen, 1991; Franck, 1988; Leavitt, 1985; Leavitt & Saegert, 1984 & 1989; Sprague, 1991; Stone, 1991; Winter & Morris, 1982). Recent discourse around policy support for aging Americans questions the effectiveness of the focus on supporting individuals aging independently in single family homes. Would aging individuals choose affordable, accessible, aesthetic housing in livable neighborhoods if available (Golant, 2008)? This project examines the demographics, economic well-being, housing characteristics, neighborhood characteristics, and residential satisfaction of older American households to better understand their desires for housing options. Objectives: 1. Compare the housing characteristics, needs, and preferences of older Americans by gender, race, ethnicity, age, income, and location. 2. Describe relationships between housing, neighborhoods conditions, and residential satisfaction. 3. Develop primary qualitative and qualitative data collection instruments to collect data for older Minnesotans. Particular attention will be paid to connect with a variety of Minnesotans based on length of residency, income, regional location, neighborhood characteristics, race, and ethnicity. 4. Develop policy and program recommendations to meet the housing needs and preferences of older persons in Minnesota. Findings from this project will be shared in professional and as well as outreach presentations and academic journals. Data will be shared with graduate students for collaborative research. Furthermore, policy briefs and fact sheets will be shared with the community. It is anticipated that members of the advisory group will help disseminate recommendations to a broad network of policy makers and housing providers. Year one goals include 2 papers and 1 journal article from AHS analyses. Year two goals are to develop, pilot, and implement surveys and interviews. Year three goals are 2 presentations and 1 journal articles based on findings from survey and interview data.
Project Methods
Researchers continue to search for the combination of objective and subjective factors within the residential environment that influence residential and life satisfaction among older persons(Lawton & Nahemow, 1979; McAuley & Offerle, 1983; Barresi, Ferraro, & Hobey, 1984; Magaziner & Cadigan, 1989; Schwirian & Schwirian, 1993). Housing satisfaction is the result of a complex process; satisfaction often varies with and between population subgroups (Bruin & Cook, 1997; Cook & Bruin, 1993; Galster, 1987; Galtser & Hesser, 1981). A mixed method, active research approach is proposed to examine the complexity of housing needs, housing preferences, and residential satisfaction. The plan is to address each objective and build on the outcomes. The first step is to assemble an advisory group of gerontologists, housing providers, and older individuals. This action research strategy is a collaboration between the researcher and grass root experts focused on developing solutions that can be applied to specific problems (Stringer, 1999). The next focus is empirical data analyses with The American Housing Survey (AHS) data. This large biennial data set from the Census Bureau allows for descriptive statistics and sophisticated modeling of housing and neighborhood conditions as well as housing and neighborhood satisfaction. The Housing Adjustment and Adaptation framework is used to develop models of residential satisfaction and propensity to move to a housing alternative (Morris & Winter, 1994). AHS data can be selected for sub populations by characteristics of the householder and household, including age, race, marital status, income, and family configuration to describe the subpopulation and compare to the overall data set that can be weighted to represent the population of the United States. This facilitates the comparisons of younger old, older, and oldest old individuals about housing decisions as well as by race and ethnicity. Furthermore, comparison of change over a decade is possible by comparing data from 1995 to data from recent waves; the most recent currently available wave is 2005. Examination of analyzes of American Housing Survey data will inform the development of surveys and interview protocol for the collection of primary data. Qualitative data collected through interviews help explain the complex decision making processes of older persons as they choose and evaluate their current housing as well as perceptions of housing options. Collaborations with other researchers will also be encouraged.

Progress 10/01/08 to 09/30/12

OUTPUTS: Findings have been disseminated in a journal article, a report, a published paper, and presentations at three national and two international conferences. The data also supported a Masters Thesis. Conclusions also influenced the development of the Smart House: Your Home, Your Community, Your Future Exhibition in the Goldstein Museum of Design in 2011 and the a 30 minute program produced by Twin Cities Public Television. PARTICIPANTS: Collaborators included Becky Yust, Laura Lien, Christine Cook, Jimnyoung Chu, Sauman Chu, Jodene Riha, Kelsey Imbertsen, and German Maurico Mejia. We partnered with Hennepen County Minnesota Department of Human Serivices through the Community University partnership at the University of Minnesota. I did a presentation to county professionals on the project. TARGET AUDIENCES: Target audiences included policy decision makers and planners in Hennepin County Minnesota. The public television program has a wide audience, it is targeted to adults with concerns about and interests in aging and quality of life. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Findings from the data collected in Hennepin County inform the planning of housing and services to support Baby Boomers as they age within their neighborhoods and communities. Concerns included financial resources, inability to predict health problems, and lack of unbiased housing information. Participants in stable relationships or stable housing assumed that everything would remain stable. Most expected to age in their current home, although several talked about moves to warmer climates or small, out-state communities. Unmarried individuals, especially individuals who had cared for an elder, were more likely to consider senior housing alternatives. Several identified benefits to living in townhouses, condominiums, or apartments. Concerns about downsizing included losing access to gardens, space for hobbies, space for family gatherings, and the need to sort and discard possessions. Access to affordable public transportation, stores, cultural amenities, and medical services was important. Safety issues included waiting for buses after dark, feeling unsafe around neighbors, and security in the individual units. Participants wanted quiet, they did not want to hear neighbors or to worry about bothering their neighbors. They wanted to age-in-place, preferring a single-family unit with green space in a safe neighborhood with services. Participants described senior housing as dense, small, isolated, expensive, and a concentration of older, frail individuals. Alternatively, several positively described age-segregated communities with specialized services, activities, and a supportive culture. Furthermore, they wanted to be involved in the planning for their futures. Women interviewed in assisted living referenced their previous independent living situations as home rather than their current situation. They expressed concern and confusion about the regulations and policies of the assisted living program. Finally, they yearned for opportunities to form personal relationships in assisted living. Quanitative analysis of 2009 American Housing Survey data confirmed the influence of neighborhood services and conditions doe elders with disability issues. We encouraged planners and policy makers to recognize the importance of the community as individuals age and deal with disabilities.


  • Cho, J., Cook, C.C., & Bruin, M.J. (2012). Functional ability, neighborhood resources and housing satisfaction among older adults in the U.S. Journal of Housing for the Elderly, 46(4), 395-412.
  • Bruin, M.J. (2012). Assisted Living. In A.T. Carswell (Ed.), Encyclopedia of Housing, Second Edition (pp. 29-31). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
  • Bruin, M., Riha, J., Chu, S., Smoot A., & Mejia, G.M. (2012). Smart housing: An intelligent environment for aging independently. (pp. 31-39) First International Smart Design Conference, Nottingham Trent University.

Progress 01/01/11 to 12/31/11

OUTPUTS: Drafted a literature review on the housing and supportive service needs of Baby Boomers, conducted focus groups in Hennepin County, and collected data through an on-line survey. The results were presented at the Housing Education and Research Association annual conference in Baton Rouge, LA in November 2011 and the CURA Housing forum in Minneapolis, MN in January 2011. The literature review for this project also influenced a museum exhibition, an interactive website, and a thirty minute public television program. Summaries of the project and evaluation data were reported at the Housing Education and Research Association annual conference in Baton Rouge, LA in November 2011 and the Smart Design Conference at Trent University, Nottingham, UK in November 2011. PARTICIPANTS: Partners included the Hennepin University Partnership. TARGET AUDIENCES: Target audiences included older adults and policy decision makers. In 2011, findings were shared with officials in Carver County, Minnesota, adult learners in a series of OSHER classes, as well as the Smart House, Livable Community, Your Future exhibition and public television program. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Not relevant to this project.

The initial work, review of literature, prepared me to collaborate with the University Hennepin County program to combine the literature review and findings from focus group interviews to submit a report with recommedations about planning housing, transportation, and services for aging Baby Boomers.


  • Bruin, M., Riha, J., Chu, S., Smoot A., & Mejia, G.M. (2011, in press). Smart housing: An intelligent environment for aging independently. First International Smart Design Conference, Nottingham Trent University.
  • Bruin, M.J., Riha, J., Smoot, A., & Chu, S. (2011). Smart House: Baby Boomers Transform a Home. (abstract) In G. Peek (Ed.), Housing Education and Research Association Conference Proceedings, Baton Rouge, LA: Housing Education and Research Association.
  • Bruin, M. J., Yust, B. L., Imbretson, K.M., & Lien, L.L. (2011). Baby Boomers: What is missing in the literature? (abstract) In G. Peek (Ed.), Housing Education and Research Association Conference Proceedings, Baton Rouge, LA: Housing Education and Research Association.
  • Bruin, M.J., Yust, B.L., Imbretson, K.M., and Lein, L.L. (2011). Aging in Hennepin County Project: Literature Review and Focus Group Summaries. Report to the Hennepin County Department of Health and Human Services.

Progress 01/01/10 to 12/31/10

OUTPUTS: Working with my research assistants, we conducted a literature review on several topics: aging in place; assisted living; environmental psychology; neighborhood effects; post occupancy evaluation; and, residential satisfaction. We reviewed several theoretical frameworks in gerontology and housing; we selected concepts from Continuity Theory, the Four-Domain Model of Perceived Housing in Very Old Age, Press Competence Model, and Housing Adjustment Theory, to build a theoretical model to guide the study. We used secondary data to test an empirical model of residential satisfaction with a large national sample of single female household heads aged 65 and older. We interviewed 22 female elders residing in assisted living to describe the experience of moving into assisted living and its influence on their sense of self and definition of home. We also interviewed 52 female residents in continuing care retirement communities to describe the influence design and residents' participation in the design process on residential satisfaction. PARTICIPANTS: Two graduate research assistants have been funded to work on the project; an additional research assistant is funded through our partnership with the county. Through the project we forged partnerships with several administrators of senior housing facilities. We expect the partnerships will continue and expand. TARGET AUDIENCES: Findings are shared with senior housing administrators. The purpose of our work with the county is to inform policy makers plan for the housing and service needs of Baby Boomers. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

The project prepared me to work with the largest metropolitan county in Minnesota on a project about the housing and service needs of aging Baby Boomers. We received a contract to conduct an extensive literature review as well as collect and analyze qualitative data. The resources from the contract are being leveraged with AES resources to collect qualitative data in focus groups with diverse residents in urban, suburban and non metro communities. I expect this data to expand my research project by applying our frameworks and findings to a younger subgroup and providing research based implications for policy and programming.


  • Lien, L., & Bruin, M. (2010). Transitioning to assisted living: Exploring elder womens perceptions of home and self. (1000 word abstract) Housing Education and Research Association Conference Proceedings, Portland, Oregon: Housing Education and Research Association.
  • Bruin, M.,J., Lien, L., & Yust, B. (2010). Aging in Hennepin County: A Background Paper/Literature Review. (Report to Hennepin County Human Services)

Progress 01/01/09 to 12/31/09

OUTPUTS: We have piloted questions and are revising our IRB application for Human Subjects approval. We are exploring recruitment strategies to find participants and expect to begin interviewing in January 2010. PARTICIPANTS: Laura Lien, Graduate Research Assistant on this project, collaborated in a literature review, the development of research questions, the development of interview questions, and interviewed three participants in a pilot. She is also developing a plan to interview 30 participants spring semester. TARGET AUDIENCES: Providers of senior housing and policy makers. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

We are still developing the project; we do not have outcomes or impacts to report.


  • No publications reported this period

Progress 01/01/08 to 12/31/08

OUTPUTS: Activities included literature review and analysis of secondary data to explore the housing and neighborhood conditions, need, preferences, and satisfaction of older female household heads. I am mentoring two graduate students on this project and incorporated finding on the development of a proposal for a museum exhibition planned for spring 2011. The project is closely linked to my teaching of a course on Post-occupancy Evaluation of Senior Housing and a course on Promoting independence in housing and community environments. PARTICIPANTS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period. TARGET AUDIENCES: Designers, developers, manager, funders, and polcy makers involved in community and senior housing. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Findings of secondary data from 1995 and 2005 American Housing Surveys were disseminated at national and international conferences. Following feedback from discussants at the conferences the next step is to develop a qualitative protocal to collect data.


  • No publications reported this period