Outdoor Mobility, Place and Older People - Everyday Mobilities in later Life in a Swedish Neighbourhood

University dissertation from Lunds universitet

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis is to offer an understanding of everyday mobilities outdoors among older persons from a place- and context-dependent perspective. The emphasis is to take a gentle approach towards an overall perspective with consideration to physical aspects (like the home neighbourhood), social aspects (like social networks and social participation) and mental aspects (like place images, mental maps and fear of crime). The thesis builds on three different studies with a mixed method approach that have resulted in five papers. Two of the studies are qualitative and were conducted in two neighbourhoods in Malmö city, in southern Sweden. The first neighbourhood is a disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhood, which has been highly exposed in mass media. This ethnographical case study includes a critical discourse analysis of newspaper articles, observations, ‘travel-alongs’ and interviews with senior participants of a senior group in the neighbourhood. The study focuses on issues such as fear of crime, social participation and wellbeing in the light of everyday mobilities in later life. The second study, a case study, focuses on the everyday mobilities of older people in a suburb, with longitudinal interviews and time-geographical diaries. The third study is a quantitative study focusing on changes in outdoor mobility. This study is based on a sample of older people in the transition from a two-person household to a single-person household from a questionnaire that went out to households in both Skåne county and Östergötland county in Sweden. Results from the first study show that social participation and social networking in the neighbourhood have positive effects on everyday mobility and fostering positive effects on neighbourhood development. Thus, avoidance and protective behaviour among the seniors occur because of fear of crime, implying restrictions in everyday life mobility. However, social participation in the form of being a part of the senior group and knowing people in the neighbourhood seems to have a salutary effect on fear of crime and a commendatory effect on everyday life mobility. The results from study two show a pronounced dependence on car use. Representations of suburbia - as places of freedom, independence and mobility enabled by private cars - devolve into a harsh reality, i.e. disabling lock-in effects for people gradually losing locomotion, and experiencing diminishing mobility capital and social intercourse. Finally, in the third study the results suggest that society must put more effort into offering good walking conditions, since a) walking seems to be the most important mode of transport for outdoor mobility in this case and b) walking is valuated almost as high as a car after becoming alone in the household regardless of whether the population in our study reported unchanged, decreased or increased mobility.