Aging in Place in Gentrifying Neighborhoods: Implications for Physical and Mental Health
In the United States, the older adult population and the proportion of neighborhoods experiencing gentrification are both growing. However, there is limited scholarship on the effects of gentrification on older adults, with most work focusing on those who leave rather than stay. This study examines the effects of remaining in a gentrifying neighborhood on older adults’ self-rated health and mental health, with particular attention to outcomes for those who are economically vulnerable.
Data are from 6,810 community-dwelling respondents in metropolitan areas from the first wave of the National Health & Aging Trends Study combined with the 1970–2010 National Neighborhood Change Database. We estimate the effects of gentrification on self-rated health and mental health separately using a quasi-experimental approach and comparing two methods: matching design and linear regression.
Economically vulnerable older adults in gentrifying neighborhoods reported higher self-rated health than economically vulnerable older adults in low-income neighborhoods. Both economically vulnerable and higher-income older adults in gentrifying neighborhoods had more depression and anxiety symptoms than those living in more affluent areas. Higher-income older adults in gentrifying neighborhoods had poorer mental health than their counterparts in low-income neighborhoods.
Findings call attention to the complexity of gentrification, and the need for more research examining how the intersection of neighborhood and individual characteristics influences older adults’ health. Results reinforce the need for neighborhood-level interventions as well as relocation support to promote health in later life and caution against an overemphasis on aging in place.