A home, an institution and a community – frames of social relationships and interaction in assisted living

Main Article Content

Katariina Tuominen
Ilkka Pietilä
Marja Jylhä
Jari Pirhonen


Assisted living facilities are presented as the older person’s home but, at the same time, defined by institutional and communal characteristics. Using Goffman’s (1974/1986) concept of frame, we aim to find out how home, institution and community frames define social roles and shape social relationships and interaction in assisted living facilities. Directed content analysis was used to analyse the data consisting of observations, one group discussion and ten individual interviews with residents in an assisted living facility. We found that the home frame was characterised by meaningfulness, spontaneousness and informality of social relation­ships and interaction, whereas the institution frame by indifference and formality of them. Acknowledging and tolerating other people was not only central in the community frame but also dissociating oneself from some people. Frames can shed light on how different interpretations of the multifaceted social environment of assisted living affect homeliness of the facility and well-being of the residents.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details



Anttonen, A. & Karsio, O. (2016). Eldercare service redesign in Finland: Deinstitutionalization of long-term care. Journal of Social Service Re¬search 42(2): 151–166. doi: 10.1080/01488376.2015.1129017

Bennett, C. R., Frankowski, A. C., Rubinstein, R. L., Peeples, A. D., Perez, R., Nemec, M. & Tucker, G. G. (2017). Visitors and resident autonomy: Spoken and unspoken rules in assisted living. The Gerontologist 57(2): 252–260. doi: 10.1093/geront/gnv079

Cutchin, M. P., Owen, S. V. & Chang, P. J. (2003). Becoming “at home” in assisted living residences: Exploring place integration processes. The Journals of Gerontology. Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences 58(4): S234. doi: 10.1093/geronb/58.4.S234

Eckert, J. K. (2009). Inside Assisted Living: The Search for Home. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Genet, N., Boerma, W. G. W., Kringos, D. S., Bouman, A., Francke, A. L., Fagerström, C., Melchiorre, M. G., Greco, C. & Devillé, W. (2011). Home care in Europe: A systematic literature review. BMC Health Ser¬vices Research 11: 207. doi: 10.1186/1472-6963-11-207

Gjernes, T. & Måseide, P. (2019). Framing and scaffolding as relational caregiving in an institution for people living with dementia. Journal of Aging Studies 49: 39–45. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2019.04.001

Goffman, E. (1986). Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experi¬ence. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press. (Original work pub¬lished 1974)

Harnett, T. & Jönson, H. (2017). Shaping nursing home mealtimes. Ageing and Society 37(4): 823–844. doi: 10.1017/S0144686X1500152X

Hsieh, H. & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research 15(9): 1277–1288. doi: 10.1177/1049732305276687

Johansson, K., Borell, L. & Rosenberg, L. (2022). Qualities of the environ¬ment that support a sense of home and belonging in nursing homes for older people. Ageing and Society 42(1): 157–178. doi: 10.1017/ S0144686X20000896

Kröger, T. (2019). Looking for the easy way out: Demographic panic and the twists and turns of long-term care policy in Finland. In T.-K. Jing, S. Kuhnle, Y. Pan & S. Chen (eds.), Aging Welfare and Social Policy: China and the Nordic Countries in Comparative Perspective (pp. 91–104). Cham: Springer International Publishing. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-10895-3_6

Lewinson, T., Robinson-Dooley, V. & Grant, K. W. (2012). Exploring “home” through residents’ lenses: Assisted living facility residents identify homelike characteristics using photovoice. Journal of Geronto¬logical Social Work 55(8): 745–756. doi: 10.1080/01634372.2012.684758

National Institute for Health and Welfare. (2021). Statistical Yearbook on Social Welfare and Health Care 2020. Vantaa: PunaMusta. Available on http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-343-615-2 (Accessed: March 16, 2021).

OECD. (2005). Long-Term Care for Older People. The OECD Health Project. Paris: OECD Publishing. doi: 10.1787/9789264015852-en

Persson, A. (2019). Framing Social Interaction: Continuities and Cracks in Goffman’s Frame Analysis. London: Routledge.

Pirhonen, J. (2017). Good Human Life in Assisted Living for Older People: What the Residents Are Able to Do and Be. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Tampere. Available on https://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-03-0416-4 (Accessed: March 16, 2021).

Pirhonen, J., Ojala, H., Lumme-Sandt, K. & Pietilä, I. (2016). “Old but not that old”: Finnish community-dwelling people aged 90+ negotiating their autonomy. Ageing and Society 36(8): 1625–1644. doi: 10.1017/ S0144686X15000525

Pirhonen, J. & Pietilä, I. (2015). Patient, resident, or person: Recognition and the continuity of self in long-term care for older people. Journal of Aging Studies 35: 95–103. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2015.05.004

Roth, E. G. & Eckert, J. K. (2011). The vernacular landscape of assisted living. Journal of Aging Studies 25(3): 215–224. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2011.03.005

Street, D., Burge, S., Quadagno, J. & Barrett, A. (2007). The salience of so¬cial relationships for resident well-being in assisted living. The Journals of Gerontology 62(2): 129. doi: 10.1093/geronb/62.2.S129

Williams, K. N. & Warren, C. A. B. (2009). Communication in assisted living. Journal of Aging Studies 23(1): 24–36. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2007.09.003