The home environment and disability-related outcomes in aging individuals: What is the empirical evidence?

Hans Werner Wahl, Agneta Fänge, Frank Oswald, Laura N. Gitlin, Susanne Iwarsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

183 Scopus citations


Purpose: Building on the disablement process model and the concept of person-environment fit (p-e fit), this review article examines 2 critical questions concerning the role of home environments: (a) What is the recent evidence supporting a relationship between home environments and disability-related outcomes? and (b) What is the recent evidence regarding the effects of home modifications on disability-related outcomes? Design and Methods: Using computerized and manual search, we identified relevant peer-reviewed original publications and review articles published between January 1, 1997, and August 31, 2006. For Research Question 1, 25 original investigations and for Research Question 2, 29 original investigations and 10 review articles were identified. Results: For Research Question 1, evidence for a relationship between home environments and disability-related outcomes for older adults exists but is limited by cross-sectional designs and poor research quality. For Research Question 2, evidence based on randomized controlled trials shows that improving home environments enhances functional ability outcomes but not so much falls-related outcomes. Some evidence also exists that studies using a p-e fit perspective result in more supportive findings than studies that do not use this framework. Implications: Considerable evidence exists that supports the role of home environments in the disablement process, but there are also inconsistencies in findings across studies. Future research should optimize psychometric properties of home environment assessment tools and explore the role of both objective characteristics and perceived attributions of home environments to understand person-environment dynamics and their impact on disability-related outcomes in old age.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)355-367
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Activities of daily living
  • Disablement process
  • Falls
  • Home modification
  • Literature review
  • Old age
  • Person-environment fit

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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