Data for: Physical and Emotional Support of the Neighborhood for Older Adults: A Comparison of the United States and Germany

Published: 6 March 2019| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/j7r4p9mpkb.1
Katharina König, Martina Raue, Lisa A. D'Ambrosio, Joseph F. Coughlin


The living environment plays a critical role in healthy aging. As older adults’ physical abilities decrease, they are less likely to compensate for physical barriers and their action radius decreases. Therefore, older adults strongly depend on the neighborhood to meet their needs. In addition to coping with the physical environment, older adults’ fulfillment of emotional needs plays a key role in supporting successful aging in place. Further, historical differences in the built environment in the United States vs. Europe may lead to different expectations of need-fulfillment in different countries. The aim of this study was to shed light on older adults’ (N = 577, ages 70+) living situations and their demands on the neighborhood in two countries, the United States (n = 350) and Germany (n = 227). Differences between countries were more pronounced than differences between age groups or living areas, indicating that cultural influence is a key aspect of needs assessment for neighborhood design. In line with the literature in environmental gerontology, participants’ needs spanned across various dimensions related to the physical, social and psychological environment, which we categorized into global, local, and social needs. As opposed to Americans, Germans had higher expectations of their immediate neighborhood to fulfill their local (e.g., public transportation) and social needs (e.g., family nearby), but countries did not differ regarding global needs such as safety. Our findings suggest that successful aging in place can be supported by a neighborhood that meets people’s needs, but also takes their cultural background into consideration.



Environmental Psychology, Urban Planning, Aging