Abstract: Spirituality in the Lives of Older Adults Reflecting upon Involuntary Relocation (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

181P Spirituality in the Lives of Older Adults Reflecting upon Involuntary Relocation

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Crecendra Brown, LMSW, MPA, Student, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Tam Perry, PhD, Assistant Professor, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Kathleen Carsten, MSN, RN, Faith Community Nurse, St. Aloysius Parish, Detroit, MI
Background and Purpose:

Relocation for older adults can be complex and even more difficult for those who are involuntarily moving.  In 2015, older adults had been involuntarily relocated from a senior apartment building in Detroit, Michigan and members of a research team conducted a post-move study on the experiences of the older adults.  Over 100 older adults were involuntarily relocated from this senior apartment building to convert the low-income apartments into luxury apartments.  Many of these older adults had lived in the community for decades and the increased demand for market-rate housing forced them out of their homes.  The experiences of the older adults who were involuntarily moved were examined in order to gain a better understanding of how they were adjusting to their new homes and community.  The participants were asked specific questions about spirituality in their lives and whether or not spirituality was helpful to them while dealing with the involuntary move.  Spirituality is an important part of some people’s lives and spiritual beliefs can influence how some people deal with important events in their lives.  Any kind of relocation for an older adult is an important life event, but it has the potential to be traumatic for an older adult when it is involuntary. 

While research on spirituality and older adults often addresses psychological functioning and physical health (Klemmack et al. 2007), the intersection of spirituality and housing concerns is an underexplored area.  This paper will help close this gap by examining how the spiritual lives of the involuntarily relocated older adults may have impacted their post-move adjustment. 


Forty-four in depth, interviews and observations were conducted on older adults (ages 50 to 110) who were involuntarily relocated in downtown Detroit, Michigan.  This paper will draw on qualitative data from the interviews and observations of the relocated older adults to better understand the lived experiences of the participants.  Participants were recruited from various sources such as the Michigan Center for Urban African American Aging Research, the Healthier Black Elders Center, newspaper ads, and community contacts including project partners of a local Parish nurse and a tenant organizer.  The participants are older adults from diverse socioeconomic, racial and ethnic backgrounds, but the majority are African American. 


Preliminary findings show that even though the involuntary relocation was somewhat traumatic for most participants, they often maintained a strong spiritual connection.  Second, most participants received support from a church or spiritual entity.  Third, some participants’ spirituality was an important coping mechanism for them while dealing with the negative effects of involuntary relocation.


Spirituality should be given thoughtful exploration in the lives of older adults, even if they perceive themselves as non-spiritual or non-religious and spirituality should be viewed as a resource in housing transitions.  This paper will provide social workers with guidelines to better understand different aspects of their clients’ identities when helping with housing decisions.