From environmental stress to spatial expulsion - rethinking concepts of socio-spatial exclusion in later life

Main Article Content

Anna Wanka
Thibauld Moulaert
Matthias Drilling


Gerontology has a longstanding tradition of researching the relationship between older adults and their socio-spatial environments. However, environmental gerontology often shares a positivistic understanding of space as either a “prosthetic” or a stressor and consequently searches for the “best fit” between a person and their environment. In this article, we argue for a stronger theoretical corpus on social and territorial exclusion in later life by exploring concepts from urban and environmental sociology, as well as examining the usefulness of these concepts for gerontological thinking. In doing so, we discuss trans-European research traditions beyond the hegemonic body of Anglo-Saxon literature. In conclusion, we discuss how gerontology and sociology might exchange ideas in order to build a stronger theoretical background on the relations between age, space and exclusion.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

Articles in a Special Issue


Authier, J.-Y., Bacqué, M.-H. & Guérin-Pace, F. (2006). Le Quartier [Neigborhood]. Paris: La Découverte.

Baykara-Krumme, H., Schimany, P. & Motel-Klingebiel, A. (eds.). (2012). Viele Welten des Alterns. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Bourdieu, P. (2015). Die verborgenen Mechanismen der Macht. Schriften zu Politik and Kultur. Hamburg: VSA-Verlag [1992].

Buffel, T. (2015). Researching Age-Friendly Communities. Stories from Older People as Co-Investigators. Manchester: The University of Manchester Library.

Buffel, T., Handler, S. & Phillipson, C. (eds.). (2018). Age-Friendly Cities and Communities: A Global Perspective. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

Buffel, T., Phillipson, C. & Scharf, T. (2012). Ageing in urban environments: Developing “age-friendly” cities. Critical Social Policy 32(4): 597–617.

Carp, F. M. (1987). Environment and aging. In D. Stokols & I. Altman (eds.), Handbook of Environmental Psychology (pp. 330–360). New York: Wiley.

Cresswell, T. (2004). Place: A Short Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell.

Crenshaw, K. (1989). Demarginalizing the intersection of race and sex: A black feminist critique of antidiscrimination doctrine, feminist theory and antirac­ist politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum 1(8): 139–167.

Day, R. (2010). Environmental justice and older age: Consideration of a qualitative neighbourhood-based study. Environment and Planning A 42: 2658–2673.

Di Méo, G. (2007). Identités et territoires: des rapports accentués en milieu urbain ? [Identity and territories: Exacerbed relations in urban area?]. Métropoles (1): 1–14.

Di Méo, G. & Buléon, P. (2005). L’espace Social: Lecture Géographique Des Sociétés. Paris: Armand Colin.

Dowd, J. J. & Bengtson, V. L. (1978). Aging in minority populations an examination of the double jeopardy hypothesis. Journal of Gerontology 33(3): 427–436.

Elias, N. & Scotson, L. J. (1994). The Established and the Outsiders (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Estes, C., Biggs, S. & Phillipson, C. (2003). Social theory, Social Policy and Ageing: A Critical Introduction. London: Open University Press.

Friedrichs, J. (1988). Soziologische Stadtforschung. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Geiling, H. (ed.) (2003). Probleme Sozialer Integration: Agis-Forschungen Zum Gesellschaftlichen Strukturwandel, Soziale Milieus im Gesellschaftlichen Strukturwandel. Münster: Lit.

Goffman, E. (1986). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. New York: Simon and Schuster [1963].

Golant, S. M. (2015). Residential normalcy and the enriched coping rep­ertoires of successfully aging older adults. The Gerontologist 55: 70–82.

Greenfield, E. A., Black, K., Buffel, T. & Yeh, J. (2018). Community geron­tology: A Framework for research, policy, and practice on communities and aging. The Gerontologist, gny089.

Handler, S. (2014). An Alternative Age-Friendly Handbook. Manchester: The University of Manchester Library.

Häußermann, H. & Siebel, W. (2000). Wohnverhältnisse und Ungleichheit. In A. Harth, G. Scheller & W. Tessin (eds.), Stadt Und Soziale Ungleich­heit (pp. 120–140). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Havighurst, R. J. (1976). Developmental Tasks and Education. New York: McKay.

Havighurst, R. J. (1954). Flexibility and the social roles of the retired. The American Journal of Sociology 59(4): 309–311.

Holland, C., Clark, A., Katz, J. & Peace, S. (eds.). (2007). Social Interactions in Urban Public Places. Public spaces series. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Hoyt, G. C. (1954). The life of the retired in a trailer park. American Journal of Sociology 59(4): 361–370.

Kahana, E. (1982). A congruence model of person-environment interaction. In M. P. Lawton, B. C. Windley & T. O. Byerts (eds.), Aging and the Environment: Theoretical Approaches (pp. 97–120). New York: Garland Publishing.

Keating, N., Eales, J. & Phillips, J. E. (2013). Age-friendly rural communi­ties: Conceptualizing “best-fit.” Canadian Journal on Aging / La Revue Canadienne Du Vieillissement 32(4): 319–332.

Kelling, G. L. & Wilson, J. Q. (1982). Broken windows: The police and neighbourhood safety. Atlantic Monthly 249: 29–38.

Keim, R. & Neef, R. (2000). Ausgrenzung und Milieu: Über die Leb­ensbewältigung von Bewohnerinnen und Bewohnern städtischer Problemgebiete. In A. Harth, G. Scheller & W. Tessin (eds.), Stadt Und Soziale Ungleichheit (pp. 248–273). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Kennedy, M. & Leonard, P. (2001). Dealing with neighbourhood change: A primer on gentrification and policy choices. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.

Koceva, M. M., Brandmueller, T., Lupu, I., Oennerfors, Å., Corselli- Nordblad, L., Coyette, C., Johansson, A., Strandell, H., Wolff, P. & European Commission (eds.). (2016). Urban Europe: Statistics on Cities, Towns and Suburbs. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Künemund, H. & Kaiser, C. (2011). Das verborgene Verschwinden des Privaten in der zweiten Lebenshälfte. In K. Hahn & C. Koppetsch (eds.), Soziologie des Privaten (pp. 303–311). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.

Lawton, M. P. (1989). Environmental proactivity in older people- In: V. L. Bengtson & K. W. Schaie (eds.), The Course of Later Life (pp. 15–23). New York: Springer Pub. Co.

Lawton, M. P. & Nahemow, L. (1973). Ecology and the aging process. In C. Eisdorfer & M. P. Lawton (eds.), The Psychology of Adult Development and Aging (pp. 619–674). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Social Production of Space [La production de l’espace]. Oxford: Blackwell. [1974]

Lindsley, O. R. (1964). Direct Measurement and prosthesis of retarded behavior. Journal of Education 147: 62–81.

Löw, M., Steets, S. & Stoetzer, S. (2007). Einführung in die Stadt- und Raum­soziologie. Opladen: Budrich.

Lui, C.-W., Everingham, J.-A., Warburton, J., Cuthill, M. & Bartlett, H. (2009). What makes a community age-friendly: A review of interna­tional literature. Australasian Journal on Ageing 28(3): 116–121.

Marchal, H. (2017). Le village Dans la Ville : l’expérience d’un Quartier Qui Fait Territoire et Lieu [The village in the city: Experience of a neigh­bourhood making territory and place]. Retraite et Société 76: 67–88. Available on

McCann, M., Grundy, E. & O’Reilly, D. (2014). Urban and rural differences in risk of admission to a care home: A census-based follow-up study. Health and Place 30: 171–176.

Moulaert, T. & Garon, S. (2015). Researchers behind policy development: Comparing “age-friendly cities” models in Quebec and Wallonia. Journal of Social Work Practice 29(1): 23–35. doi: 10.1080/02650533.2014. 993946

Moulaert, T. & Garon, S. (eds.). (2016). Age-Friendly Cities in International Comparison: Political Lessons, Scientific Avenues, and Democratic Issues. New York: Springer, coll. International Perspectives on Aging, 14.

Moulaert, T., Wanka, A. & Drilling, M. (2018). The social production of age, space and exclusion: Towards a more theory-driven understanding of spatial exclusion mechanisms in later life. Sociální studia/Social Studies.

Norman, A. (1985). Triple jeopardy: Growing old in a second homeland. London: Centre for Policy on Ageing.

Pereira, V. B. & Queirós, J. (2014). “It’s not a Bairro, is it?”: Subsistence sociability and focused avoidance in a public housing estate. Environ­ment and Planning A 46: 1297–1316.

Phillipson, C. (2011). Developing age-friendly communities: New approaches to growing old in urban environments. In S. Settersten & J. Angel (eds.), Handbook of Sociology of Aging (pp. 279–293). New York: Springer.

Phillipson, C. (2007). The “elected” and the “excluded”: Sociological per­spectives on the experience of place and community in old age. Ageing and Society 27(03): 321–342.

Phillipson, C. (2004). Urbanisation and ageing: Towards a new environ­mental gerontology. Ageing and Society 24: 963–972.

Plouffe, L., Kalache, A. & Voelcker, I. (2016). A critical review of the WHO age-friendly cities methodology and its implementation. In T. Moulaert & S. Garon (eds.), Age-Friendly Cities and Communities in International Comparison (pp. 19–36). New York: Springer.

Purcell, M. (2003). Citizenship and the right to the global city: Reimagin­ing the capitalist world order. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 27(3): 564–590.

Rowles, G. D. & Watkins, J. F. (2003). History, habit, heart and hearth: On making spaces into places. In K. W. Schaie, H.-W. Wahl, H. Mollen­kopf & F. Oswald. (eds.), Aging Independently: Living Arrangements and Mobility (pp. 77–96). New York: Springer.

Sampson, R. J. (2009). Disparity and diversity in the contemporary city: Social (dis)order revisited. The British Journal of Sociology 60: 1–31.

Sassen, S. (2014). Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

Savage, M., Warde, A. & Ward, K. (2003). Urban Sociology, Capitalism and Modernity. Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Scharf, T. (2002). Growing Older in Socially Deprived Areas: Social Exclusion in Later Life. London: Help the Aged.

Simmel, G. (2010). The metropolis and mental life. In G. Bridge & S. Watson (eds.), The Blackwell City Reader (pp. 11–19). Chichester; Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell. [1903].

Townsend, P. (2002). Poverty, social exclusion and social polarisation: The need to construct an international welfare state. In P. Townsend & D. Gordon (eds.), World Poverty: New Policies to Defeat an Old Enemy (pp. 3–24). Bristol: Policy Press.

Townsend, P. (1979). Poverty in the United Kingdom. London: Allen Lane and Penguin Books.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. (2018). World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision.

Vuaillat, F. & Madoré, F. (2010). Une affaire de générations: la construction d’un entre-soi à l’épreuve de la mixité intergénérationnelle [A matter of gen­erations: Constructing the self-proximity through intergenerational mix]. Available on articles/mixite-intergenerations/

Wacquant, L. (2011). Territorial Stigmatisation Revisited: Symbols, State, and Space. Keynote address to the International Conference on Territorial Stigmatisation and Advanced Marginality, University of Porto, 22 June.

Wacquant, L., Slater, T. & Pereira, V. B. (2014). Territorial stigmatisation in action. Environment and Planning A 46: 1270–1280.

Wahl, H.-W. & Oswald, F. (2010). Environmental perspectives on ageing. In C. Phillipson & D. Dannefer (eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Social Gerontology (pp. 111–124). London: Sage Publications Ltd.

Wahl, H.-W. & Lang, F. R. (2006). Psychological aging: A contextual view. In P. M. Conn (ed.), Handbook of Models for Human Aging (pp. 881–895). New York: Elsevier.

Wahl, H.-W. & Weisman, G. D. (2003). Environmental gerontology at the beginning of the new millennium: Reflections on its historical, empirical, and theoretical development. The Gerontologist 43: 616–627.

Wahl, H.-W., Mollenkopf, H. & Oswald, F. (eds.) (1999). Alte Menschen in ihrer Umwelt: Beiträge zur ökologischen Gerontologie. Opladen: West­deutscher Verlag.

Walsh, K., Scharf, T. & Keating, N. (2017). Social exclusion of older per­sons: A scoping review and conceptual framework. European Journal of Ageing 14(1): 81–98.

Wanka, A., Wiesböck, L., Allex, B., MAyrhuber, E., Arnberger, A., Eder, R., Kutalek, R., Wallner, P., Hutter, H.-P. & Kolland, F. (2018). Every­day discrimination in the neighbourhood: What a ‘doing’ perspective on age and ethnicity can offer. Ageing and Society 1–26.

Wanka, A. (2018a). Disengagement as withdrawal from public space: Rethinking the relation between place attachment, place appropria­tion, and identity-building among older adults. The Gerontologist 58(1): 130–139.

Wanka, A. (2018b). Everyday discrimination in the neighbourhood. What a “doing” perspective on age and ethnicity can offer. Ageing and Society 2018.

Warf, B. & Arias, S. (eds.). (2009). The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspec­tives. Abingdon, Oxon and New York: Routledge.

Werthman, C. & Piliavin, I. (1967). Gang members and the police. In D. Bordua (ed.), The Police: Six Sociological Essays (pp. 56–98). New York: Wiley.

White, S. & Hammond, M. (2018). From representation to active ageing in a Manchester neighbourhood: Designing the age-friendly city. In Buf­fel, T., Handler, S. & Phillipson, C. (eds.), Age-Friendly Cities and Com­munities: A Global Perspective (pp. 193–210). Bristol: Bristol University Press.

Wiles, J. L., Leibing, A., Guberman, N., Reeve, J. & Allen, R. E. S. (2012). The meaning of “aging in place” to older people. The Gerontologist 52(3): 357–366.

World Health Organization (WHO). (2007). Global Age-friendly Cities: A Guide. Geneva: WHO.

Young, M. & Willmott, P. (1957). Family and Kinship in East London. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.