Environmental Gerontology at the Beginning of the New Millennium: Reflections on Its Historical, Empirical, and Theoretical Development

  • Wahl H
  • Weisman G
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Over the past four decades the environmental context of aging has come to play an important role in gerontological theory, research, and practice. Environmental gerontology (EG)--focused on the description, explanation, and modification or optimization of the relation between elderly persons and their sociospatial surroundings--has emerged as a subfield in its own right. The aim of this article is to reflect on the historical, empirical, and theoretical development of recent EG, following Parmelee and Lawton's diagnosis from 1990 that there is a need to move the field beyond its current languishing state. From a historical perspective, EG has clearly played an important and successful role within the gerontology enterprise in terms of explicit consideration of the sociophysical environment in theory and research. A literature analysis of empirical studies supports the view that research has continued on a substantial quantitative level during the 1990s. Findings of these research studies address the whole diversity of classic EG research questions, but mostly in the sense of replication and extension. In terms of theoretical discussion, our analysis leads to the insight that EG may be described as a field high in conceptual aspiration ("world views"), but low with regard to making research and application-productive use of its theoretical achievements.

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  • Hans Werner Wahl

  • Gerald D. Weisman

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