Exploring the impact of social network change: Experiences of older adults ageing in place

W. H. Vos*, L. C. van Boekel, M. M. Janssen, R. T. A. J. Leenders, K. G. Luijkx

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
157 Downloads (Pure)


Social networks are sources of support and contribute to the well-being of older adults who are ageing in place. As social networks change, especially when accompanied by health decline, older adults' sources of support change and their well-being is challenged. Previous studies predominantly used quantitative measures to examine how older adults' social networks change. Alternatively, this study explores the impact of changing social networks on older adults' lives by examining their personal experiences. We held four focus groups, two with a total of 14 older adults who are ageing in place and receiving home care and two with a total of 20 home-care nurses from different regions and organisations in the Netherlands. Subsequently, an expert team of home-care professionals and managers discussed and verified the results. Procedures for grounded theory building were used for analysis. We revealed four themes of high-impact experiences: (a) struggling with illness/death of the spouse; (b) working out a changing relationship with (grand)children; (c) regretting the loss of people they have known for so long and (d) feeling dependent and stressed when helpers enter the network. Also, network dynamics were found to follow three consecutive stages: (a) awareness of social network change; (b) surprise when social network change actually occurs and (c) acceptance and adjusting to new circumstances. Together, the four themes of experiences and three stages of network change form an integrative model of the role of social network dynamics for older adults' lives when ageing in place.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-126
JournalHealth & Social Care in the Community
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • older adults
  • social network change
  • ageing in place
  • impact
  • experiences
  • LIFE
  • AGE


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