Background: Ageing in place is a field of research which bestows pertinence upon developments within population structures. The number of elderly citizens will not only increase in hard numbers in the coming years, but also in relation to children, young people and citizens capable of gainful employment. Apart from that, life expectancy is increasing. Accommodation is a basic human need. It signifies the ability to retreat, communication, get-togethers, it is a way of conveying both your personality and your independence and it also allows you to interpret your own biography. The data situation, empirical studies and the current state of research provide a clear picture of where the elderly actually live: they prefer their own private dwelling. Additionally, this dwelling becomes the main social-spatial context in old age. However, the current state of research points to limits in residential properties. With decreasing physical competency, spatial structures become challenges for the elderly which should be explored.

Objectives and research questions: The aim of this doctoral thesis is to understand and describe the social-spatial process with regard to living which the elderly pass through. Following theoretical aspects and the current state of research, research questions are derived which encompass different social-spatial contexts: independent living in a private dwelling, private housing as room for care and nursing, and relocation in old age.

Method: A qualitative approach enables a profound analysis and description of the different social-spatial contexts with regard to living in old age. Within three sub-projects, interviews were conducted with research groups as regards points of contact to living in old age. The interviews were transcribed and edited with the aid of the Qualitative Content Analysis of Mayring (2008) – at first, separately for each sub-project. The triangulation of the results (Flick 2010) was the next step of analysis which allowed both common features and differences to be derived.

Results: The results show that the elderly are aware of three phases in reference to residential living in old age: first of all, they wish to age in place – to stay in their hereditary dwelling. With decreasing physical competency, nursing and care within private housing begin to be considered. If this is either impossible or no longer possible, alternative living facilities can provide a solution. The results point to the fact that the fit between person and social-spatial environment exercises a decisive influence. In order to re-establish this fit after changes have taken place, the elderly use different strategies which are also described.

Discussion and conclusions: The results being compared with the current state of research and the data situation indicate practical implications for individuals, care organizations, real estate business, investors and policy-makers, as well as implications for further research. Decisions concerning residential living in old age should bear in mind that the older person as well as his dwelling should be considered and respected to be unique. Different strategies which are considered to be an improvement should be discussed mutually.

Outlook: As living arrangements in old age affect us all and dwellings that you can call your own remain valid as the main social-spatial context, strategies for improvements should be questioned and gathered quantitatively in order to derive consequences for policy-makers who are responsible for housing supply.