Book reviews

Nowik Laurent, Thalineau Alain (eds.), 2014, Vieillir chez soi. Les nouvelles formes du maintien à domicile, [Ageing at home: new forms of home care], Presses universitaires de Rennes, “Le sens social” series, 240 p.

Alexandra Garabige  By the same author

Resume

This book presents the proceedings of an international conference entitled “Vieillir chez soi” (Tours, 2013) in which specialists of ageing in a wide range of disciplines participated: sociologists, socio-demographers, gerontologists, physicians, occupational therapists, architects and others. At a time when home care is being promoted in France and throughout Europe as a response to population ageing, the book focuses instead on semi-collective housing for older persons; i.e., apartment buildings combining private units and shared spaces along with a range of personal or collective services. This type of living situation, not well known in France, implies leaving one’s home and is presented as an alternative to ordinary or ordinary-adapted dwellings and homes for dependent older persons.

The book is divided into two parts of respectively six and fi e chapters that combine a range of approaches, including socio-historical, qualitative and quantitative field study and analysis of public research institute survey data. Part I discusses semi-collective housing situations – which range from retirement homes to various types of serviced housing for seniors – and how they have changed in recent years. The characteristics and specificities of each type are listed, as well as how they have evolved over time in conjunction with long-term changes in family solidarity practices and public policy. Part I also presents the perspectives of those who run and live in these housing arrangements, thereby offering a fairly complete overview of this type of housing and improvements to it while showing how unequally they have been developed across France.

Part II shifts to the question of ageing at home and associated drawbacks. A number of chapters discuss diverse experiments in home care in connection with forms of family support. The ability to plan out one’s living space, the presence or absence of family care-givers, older persons’ economic resources, and such criteria as geographical distance from family all influence decisions to remain at home or move into semi-collective housing. The decision also involves how this sector is structured: for-profit private services are appearing on the market in France and abroad (notably in Switzerland, a case covered in one of the chapters).

It is useful to present these types of housing, which commonly receive little positive attention in public policy despite the fact that they enable older persons to live in a single unit while guaranteeing them a particular social environment. The question of ageing in good conditions opens directly onto the different individual, policy-related, and social issues raised by this type of housing in France and various European countries while providing useful indications of how to improve older persons’ living arrangements and so their lives.