Date of Award

12-14-2017

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

Heying Jenny Zhan

Second Advisor

Candace Kemp

Third Advisor

Elisabeth Burgess

Abstract

This dissertation research explores Chinese older adults’ perceptions of home in varied aging contexts and assesses the process of obtaining a feeling of home after relocation in an old age. Two sets of qualitative data were drawn for the study: one was collected in Atlanta, Georgia to understand Chinese older immigrants’ home-making experiences in the U.S. (n=21); the other one was drawn in Xi’an, Shan Xi Province to delineate manifestations and pathways that lead to older people’s feelings of home in six different long-term care (LTC) facilities in China (n=38). The study intends to highlight the multi-faceted meanings of home, the interactive nature between human agency and aging environments, as well as the interconnected manner between multiple dimensions of home. Analyses of both samples revealed three premises of home: 1) Home, in its essence, entailed older people’ subjective feelings in relation to their dwelling place, including feelings of comfort and safety, independence and a sense of being accepted, valued and supported. 2) These home feelings were shaped by objective components and attributes in older people’s living environment which were embedded in the wider social, cultural, and political systems, and simultaneously affected by individuals’ actions and emotions; 3) Home is a fluid and dynamic concept that requires continuous personal and environmental adjustment. Taken together, no matter aging in the U.S. or in LTC facilities in China, older people expect their environments to bring about positive residential experiences by compensating for their declines, maximizing their opportunities for independence and mastery, keeping them active and engaged with others, and eventually making them feel good about the place and themselves. This dissertation research offers a full discussion of policy implications for social services and social workers, LTC providers and planners, state and federal government agencies, and aging policy makers at national levels.

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