Living with Best Friends? How Providers Create Social Capital in Housing for the Elderly

Gorgi Krlev (University of Oxford)

Abstract: ‘Social capital’ denotes the number and strength of bonds between people. Systems of elderly care try to create environments that are similar to people’s original living environment. Community oriented housing is a new model. It creates family or friend-like structures between people and thus incentivises ‘informal’ support. Despite the strong thematic connection between care and social capital, there have been no studies systematically comparing these new forms to more standard models such as ‘assisted living.’ This article compares the social capital and other sorts of capital in a population of people aged 60 and above living in either of the two alternative models in Germany. It studies various components of social capital, among them the social networks, mutual support, participation in activities of the facility etc., but also cultural capital (trust) or engagement/activism (political capital). The article compares the mean levels of capitals occurring in the models in a matched cohort design. It finds that community oriented models, create higher levels of capital, almost consistently across all measured variables. Results will inform housing providers and policy makers of the social effects of alternative living models and might contribute to transforming living facilities for the elderly.