‘Aging in place’ or ‘stuck in place’? The aging in place experiences of older adults in a gentrifying neighborhood in Hong Kong

Student thesis: MPhil Thesis (Lingnan)


Urbanization and population aging are two of the most critical global trends in the 21st century. In particular, the aging experiences of older adults living in gentrified urban areas has raised the attention of scholars from various disciplines. Urban aging concerns how and why some older adults can thrive in urban life while others are struggling to adapt. Hong Kong is experiencing ‘double aging’ —an aging population and a large scale of aging buildings, which make it particularly challenging to strike a balance between urban renewal and preservation of the community for older adults to age in place. The challenges caused by double aging has raised a question of whether older adults are aging in place or being ‘stuck in place’. In the existing literature, however, there is little attention paid to the potential impacts of gentrification on older adults who would like to age in place in Asian regions, especially Hong Kong. In light of this, this research aims to examine the aging in place experiences of older adults in Kwun Tong—a neighborhood that is undergoing rapid social and urban changes due to urban renewal and gentrification. It seeks to understand the dynamic and changing constitution of places where older people are living in and how these conditions affect the aging in place experiences of older residents.

Methodologically, I conducted in-depth interviews with 30 senior residents in Kwun Tong, who are aged 65 or above, to collect information about their aging in place experiences and perception of the urban renewal project in Kwun Tong. The in-depth interview data was also supplemented with 100 hours of ethnographical observation, which captured the changes of the Kwun Tong neighborhood and the daily life experiences of older people after urban redevelopment. The ethnographic data helps obtain additional and valuable grounded knowledge about the older residents’ daily routines in the changing neighborhood and how their lives have been affected by urban renewal and gentrification.

This study makes several contributions to the literature on urban studies, aging studies and environmental gerontological studies. First, it demonstrates the diversity of aging in place experiences of older adults living in a gentrifying district due to various factors including diverse experiences of places, formal and informal support within social networks, and personal characteristics. Contrary to previous overseas studies that mostly portrayed the aging in place experiences in gentrifying neighborhoods as either negative or positive, my research findings show that older people in Kwun Tong generally have ambivalent and mixed feelings toward the neighborhood that is undergoing gentrification and urban renewal. Secondly, this research reveals the agency of older people by examining the different responses and strategies they adopted to address the changes and challenges of gentrification that they face during urban renewal, which is an area that is so far under-studied in the literature. The findings demonstrate that older adults have utilized various resources to develop their skills and attitudes to cope with the challenges brought by gentrification. Finally, this research examines the patterns of participation of older people in the urban renewal process. Given the generally low level of participation of older people, it is suggested that age-inclusive measures need to be incorporated into future urban planning and redevelopment so that participation of older people can be increased, and their needs and voices be heard.

Date of Award5 Sept 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorTuen Yi Jenny CHIU (Supervisor) & Yuen Shan Ruby LAI (Co-supervisor)

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