Place-making with older persons: Establishing sense-of-place through participatory community mapping workshops

Mei Lan Fang, Ryan Woolrych, Judith Sixsmith, Sarah L. Canham, Lupin Battersby, Andrew Sixsmith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)
618 Downloads (Pure)


Principles of aging-in-place emphasize the importance of creating sustainable environments that enable older people to maintain a sense of belonging, autonomy, independence, safety and security. Simply altering the built environment is insufficient for creating more inclusive environments for older persons, as creating ‘meaningful’ places for aging involves consideration of psychosocial and cultural issues that go beyond issues of physical space. This paper illustrates how applications of community-based participatory research methods, in particular, participatory community mapping workshops (PCMWs), can be used to access experiences of place, identify facilitators and barriers to accessing the built environment and co-create place-based solutions among older people and service providers in a new affordable housing development in Western Canada. Founded on tenets of empowerment and relationship building, four PCMWs were undertaken with 54 participants (N = 38 older people; N = 16 local service providers). PCMWs comprised (i) experiential group walks around the community to access understandings of place and community and (ii) mapping exercises, whereby participants articulated their place-based needs within the context of the new affordable housing development and surrounding neighbourhood. Dialogues were digitally recorded, transcribed and thematically analysed. Visual data, including photographs taken during experiential group walks were categorized and integrated into the narrative to illustrate place meanings. PCMWs enabled senior housing and social care professionals and decision-makers to co-construct knowledge with older tenants that facilitated place action and change. Key themes identified by participants included: identifying services and needs for health and wellbeing, having opportunities for social participation and overcoming cross-cultural challenges. PCMWs were found to be a nuanced method of identifying needs and resources and generating knowledge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223–229
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Early online date25 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


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