The objectives of the program were the following. First, it aims to provide insight into the determinants of living arrangements of older adults, their kin and non-kin networks. Second, it aims to provide insight into the outcomes of living arrangements of older adults, and their kin and non-kin networks in terms of the availability of the social support essential for daily functioning, for coping with problems associated with life events, and for maintaining well-being. The third objective is to use these insights to separate the assumptions essential to the constructing of models predicting future trends in living arrangements and networks from the assumptions which are not.
The perspective adopted in the research program is one which emphasizes the autonomy of older adults, i.e. their ability to manage on their own. However, contrary to many of the studies into the conditions underlying their ability to manage alone, which tend to emphasize individual characteristics, such as the level of cognitive performance or health status, this program centers on characteristics of the social matrix in which older adults are embedded. In other words, the focus is on the importance of the personal relationships for daily functioning, for coping with life events and for maintaining well-being. More specifically the focus is on living arrangements of older adults and their social networks.
The desire to move beyond an exclusive focus on individual characteristics is not the only reason for focusing on relationships of older persons. Another consideration is that it is particularly in personal relationships that the impact of broader changes in society is reflected. The economic, demographic and cultural changes of recent decades have led to changes in relationships available to people and/or in the conditions providing opportunities for social interaction. It is unclear what the implications are for the individual older adult. How do older persons deal with the changing conditions of personal relationships and how will they deal with these changes in the future? It should be pointed out that relationships of older adults are also subject to changes associated with the aging process itself. For this reason, the (possible) implications of changes in personal relationships which are associated with changes in society must be considered in relation with life course changes in personal relationships.