Gentrification, Aging in Place, and Social Networks Open Access

Pothen, John (Spring 2021)

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The gentrification of urban spaces in the United States is a complex social phenomenon with profound implications for population health. As older adults continue to comprise more of the population than ever before, the suitability of gentrifying spaces for successful aging is increasingly important. This study focuses on a population of older adults living in a gentrifying neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. Comprised of three empirical papers, this mixed-methods project explores the phenomenon of gentrification, its impact on social networks, and its implications for aging in place. The first paper is a grounded theory analysis of gentrification in the neighborhood as documented in newspaper articles from 1950-2020. The second paper characterizes the social networks of older adults in this neighborhood and explores distinctions between neighbors who are friends and those who are not counted as such. The third paper, developed out of necessity following the end of field work secondary to the COVID-19 pandemic, analyzes perceived discrimination in healthcare settings among older adults using data from the nationally representative Health and Retirement Study. Data collection began in 2017 and ended in 2021 throughout which the author had prolonged engagement through participant-observation, conducted 31 structured interviews with older adults in the neighborhood, and reviewed 1,303 newspaper articles. I found that processes of gentrification tend to marginalize older adults aging in place but also led to opportunities for new relationships with newer residents who live nearby. Additionally, I found that oldest old adults are less likely to report perceived discrimination in healthcare settings than young old adults.

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 1: Introduction 1

CHAPTER 2: The Role of the State in the Gentrification of Adair Park 20

Figure 1. Map of Adair Park 45

Figure 2. Post-Civil Rights Context 46

Figure 3. Racialized Urban Neglect 47

Figure 4. Predatory Lending 48

Figure 5. Racial Awareness and Conflict 49

Figure 6. Conceptual Model for Property Values in Adair Park 50

CHAPTER 3: Friends, Neighbors, or Both? Social Networks of Older Adults in a Gentrifying Neighborhood 51

Table 1. Selected Characteristics of Social Convoys 80

Table 2. Characteristics and Comparison of Neighborhood Networks 81

Figure 1. Reputation and Formal Conversation Networks 82

Figure 2. Informal Conversation and Instrumental Support Networks 83

Figure 3. Combined Neighborhood Network 84

Table 3. Family, Neighbor-Friends and Neighbors in Social Convoys 85

CHAPTER 4: Perceived discrimination and age in the United States healthcare system 86

Table 1. Demographic, Health, Health Insurance and Healthcare Variables by Age 88

Table 2. Logistic Regression of Reporting Healthcare Discrimination 89

Table 3. Logistic Regression of Reporting Healthcare Discrimination on Health, Insurance and Healthcare Variables 90

eFigure 1. Perceived Discrimination and Attributions by Age 91

eFigure 2. Self-Rated Health Mediate the Effects of Counts of Symptoms 92

eFigure 3. Self-Rated Health Mediate the Effect of ER as Usual Place of Care 93

eFigure 4. Crosstabulation of ER as Usual Place and Number of Times seen by a Doctor 94

Figure 1. Attributions of Perceived Discrimination by Age 95

CHAPTER 5: Discussion 96

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