Urban and suburban geographies of ageing

Call for papers for two papers sessions at the RGS/IBG Conference, sponsored by the Urban Geography Research Group and the Geography of Health Research Group.


  • Bettina van Hoven (Cultural Geography Department; Faculty of Spatial Sciences; University of Groningen; The Netherlands)
  • Debbie Lager (Cultural Geography Department; Faculty of Spatial Sciences; University of Groningen; The Netherlands)
  • Chiara Negrini (School of Geography, Geology and the Environment; Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing; Kingston University; Kingston upon Thames)
  • Tim Schwanen (School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford)

We seek to organise two sessions to explore the relationships of older people and ageing with place, with a particular focus on urban and suburban environments. Up till now, research in the field of ageing and place has been dominated by social and environmental gerontologists. Recently, Schwanen et al. (2012) advocated a more ‘sustained engagement’ with ageing from geographers in order to draw attention to the different spatial configurations of old age and the socio-spatial inequalities in later life. These socio-spatial inequalities stem from a complex interplay of the social and material environment and the biological and psychological aspects of the ageing body (see e.g. Ziegler, 2012). Research on ageing in urban environments has highlighted the exclusionary processes to which older adults can be subjected, such as the obstacles for everyday mobility and the challenges of everyday life in deprived urban neighbourhoods (see e.g. Smith, 2009; Buffel, 2013). However, it has also been acknowledged that older people can make active and important contributions to their community and can make their (urban) neighbourhood and home into a place that evokes positive experiences and attachments.

Arguably, however, the vast majority of older people in the near future will age-in-place in suburban areas rather than live in densely populated urban centres. Whilst historically not developed for older people, suburban areas are now being (re)designed and (re)organised to meet the material and social needs of their older residents (e.g., through the implementation of integrated service areas – ISAs). Given the policy relevance of this trend, further research is needed with regard to how ageing-in-place in suburban neighbourhoods is experienced and what the socio-spatial implications of these environments are for its older population.

We encourage papers that investigate the multiple relationships between ageing and the urban and suburban environment, with particular attention to:

  • Intersections of age with gender, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation and other forms of social identification and exclusionary processes related to these intersections;
  • Theoretical advancement within the field of ‘geographies of ageing’;
  • Participatory methodologies and ethical considerations relating to this type of research;
  • Contributions of older people to their local community;
  • Meanings, experiences and emotions related to ageing-in-place; and
  • Planning processes that make cities and suburbs more age-friendly and the role of older people herein.

Abstracts (max. 200 words) should be submitted by 10th February 2014 to Chiara Negrini (c.negrini@kingston.ac.uk) and Debbie Lager (d.r.lager@rug.nl).

Happy New Year

Happy 2014! It has been a while since my last post, which is largely because I have been in Hong Kong for most of December to work on some joint research with Prof Donggen Wang on well-being and to attend two conferences. I gave a plenary during the 18th Conference of the Hong Kong Society for Transportation Studies on the insights that can be derived from Whitehead’s philosophy for the analysis of processes of change in transport (see picture).


And on the day prior to the main conference I gave a keynote on how I believe activity analysis in transport studies should be reconfigured so that we can better understand how socio-technical innovations in urban transport (e.g. car sharing schemes or electric vehicles) change, develop and diffuse over time in particular places. I will probably discuss this work in a later post.

Apart from working and attending conferences, I have also had the opportunity to experience the fantastic city that is Hong Kong — a paradise for urban geographers interested in processes of urban expansion, growing sociospatial inequality and low carbon urban mobility. I visited Hong Kong in 1998, just after the hand-over, but the city has changed almost unrecognisably since: it has grown in terms of population size, ‘neoliberal’ urban (re)development projects are now much more common, social inequalities have increased markedly, and the city has become much more Chinese than it was in my memory. It has not, however, lost any of its positive energy. If anything, its vitality has only increased and easily surpasses that of Europe’s major cities. It is now truly a global city where East and West mingle in all kinds of innovative and inspiring ways!