Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences

Senior citizens get involved in neighbourhood research

14 Nov 2017 15:50 | Communication

Amsterdam is a city in which everyone should be able live comfortably, no matter what their age. The Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (AUAS) investigated how senior citizens feel about the quality of life in their neighbourhoods. In other words: the residents studied this themselves.

Participatory study

Following the example of The University of Manchester, the Urban Social Work and Occupational Therapy – Participation and Environment research groups applied a new research method in cooperation with the City of Amsterdam and VU University Medical Center: the researchers trained the residents to conduct research themselves, with promising results. A group of 19 residents aged 65 to 85 interviewed a total of 80 fellow senior citizens about the quality of life in the Buitenveldert (Amsterdam Zuid) and Indische Buurt (Amsterdam Oost) neighbourhoods. Some of the respondents had been living in complete isolation. “Vulnerable senior citizens often stay in the background. By using this research method, we were also able to hear their voices,” said Lex Veldboer, Professor of Urban Social Work.

Co creation

There are many issues that residents cannot solve on their own. By conducting research themselves, these issues find their way onto the agenda. Veldboer: “Take the removed bus stop for example, which the study revealed has been problematic for residents. Thinking about recommendations and suitable solutions themselves makes residents active. And instead of having only dry research data, we now also know how concerned the older residents are about certain themes and what they do and do not want to address, together with the city authorities.” The AUAS researchers ensured that the research results met the conditions for reliable research. The residents spent a year being trained and supervised while conducting interviews with fellow residents and performing analyses.

Age-friendly amsterdam

The study was conducted because residents of all ages should be able to enjoy living in the city. Amsterdam and The Hague are the only Dutch cities to be part of the Age-friendly City network, a worldwide network of over 300 cities designated as age-friendly by the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations. They assess the city according to criteria such as healthcare, employment opportunities, housing and social inclusion.


On 10 November, a group of residents presented the research reports Ouderenvriendelijk Buitenveldert op maat (‘Tailor-made elderly-friendly Buitenveldert’) and Samenwerken aan een ouderenvriendelijke Indische Buurt (‘Working towards an elderly-friendly Indische Buurt’) to Alderman Eric van der Burg, who is in charge of the Healthcare and Elderly portfolios. “Anyone aged zero to 100 should be able to live in Amsterdam. This means that we have to work together to create a climate that is pleasant to live and work in. Together with everyone in Amsterdam, we will make the city elderly-friendly,” says Van der Burg.