European Journal of Ageing

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 79–88 | Cite as

Challenges of cross-national housing research with older persons: lessons from the ENABLE-AGE project

  • Susanne Iwarsson
  • Hans-Werner Wahl
  • Carita Nygren
Original Investigation


Although it is generally acknowledged that housing is a major issue regarding health in old and very old age, most empirical research still tends to treat the role of the housing environment in a rather superficial manner. The cross-national project Enabling Autonomy, Participation, and Well-Being in Old Age: The Home Environment as a Determinant for Healthy Ageing (ENABLE-AGE) seeks to make a substantial contribution to this shortcoming. The main objective of the project is to examine subjective and objective aspects of housing and their impact on health in very old age, while health is understood mainly in terms of autonomy, participation and well-being. The project involves five European Union member countries, i.e. Sweden (coordinating unit), Germany, the United Kingdom, Latvia and Hungary. The total sample includes 1,918 older adults in the age range of 75–89 years and living in single households. We provide a systematic analysis of major challenges coming with cross-national research in the housing and ageing domain based on the experience of the ENABLE-AGE Project. Treated are: challenges related to sampling and data collection procedures, challenges related to inclusion and exclusion criteria based on housing characteristics, challenges related to differences in housing legislation, norms, and guidelines, challenges related different availability of professional expertise for person-environment assessments, challenges related to valid and reliable person-environment assessments, and challenges related to the interpretation of housing-related findings.


Housing Health Person-environment fit Accessibility Very old age 



The ENABLE-AGE Project is funded by the European Commission (QLRT-2001-00334). We are also grateful to the Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (FORMAS), the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (FAS), and the Swedish Research Council for additional funding. We thank the national team leaders for providing input: Dr. F. Oswald, German Centre for Research on Ageing at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, Dr. A. Sixsmith, University of Liverpool, UK, Dr. J. Sixsmith, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, Dr. Z. Széman, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Hungary, and reg. occupational therapist S. Tomsone, Riga Stradinja University, Latvia.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susanne Iwarsson
    • 1
  • Hans-Werner Wahl
    • 2
  • Carita Nygren
    • 1
  1. 1.Division of Occupational Therapy, Department of Clinical NeuroscienceLund UniversityLundSweden
  2. 2.German Centre for Research on AgeingUniversity at HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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