The first question is: what are the determinants of living arrangements of older adults, their kin and non-kin networks? Living arrangements refer to housing, household composition and residential environment. Housing relates to the situation of an older adult living in a private household or in an institution of some kind. Household composition concerns the matter of the older adult living alone, or sharing the household. If the latter is the case, data are gathered about the household members, whether they are a marital partner, a non-marital partner of the same or of the opposite sex, family members (e.g. adult children, elderly parents, siblings etc.) and/or non-family related individuals. The question of residential environment refers to the location such as close to adult children and/or other family members, or whether the person lives in a area with a relatively high or relatively low sub-population of older adults, and whether the person is a relative newcomer or a long term resident. It is likely that housing, household composition and residential environment lay down the restrictions and opportunities which an older person has for establishing and maintaining the relationships which decide their social networks. The proposed research program aims to provide insight into the manner in which this occurs.
The second question is: what are the outcomes of having a specific living arrangement, kin and non-kin network in terms of the support received, and consequently in terms of daily functioning, coping with life events and maintaining well-being? People who are surrounded by other people, who have others available to assist them now and then with practical services, to give positive feedback or to show their affective concern, generally experience a higher level of well-being than those who lack such ties with others. It is put forward that the support provided by social network members helps to protect older persons from experiencing negative outcomes, helps them in their efforts to improve their situation, and helps them respond to adverse events. The support is considered adequate if it meets older persons's needs for well-being and makes it possible for them to arrange their own lives. Several theoretical models can be used to examine the adequacy of support. One is the model of ecological congruence which emphasizes a lock-and-key fit between the demands for particular types of support and the supply of support. Another acknowledge that analyses of the adequacy of support should not only take into account the actual provision of support but also whether or not the support matches the expectation of the individual. Cognitive process approach stressing personal perceptions and evaluations, provide a fruitful framework for such analyses.
The third question is: how can insights into the determinants and outcomes of living arrangements of older adults, their kin and non-kin networks be applied in the construction of more realistic models of future trends in living arrangements and networks? The usefulness of future prognoses depends upon the validity of the assumptions upon which they are founded. Knowledge obtained through the proposed research program can be used in the construction of more realistic models, more realistic in the sense of a broader awareness of the validity of the assumptions upon which they are based. It is proposed that there are two ways in which this aim can be achieved. The first is through the analysis of trends in living arrangements, kin and non-kin networks. Knowledge about trends in living arrangements and networks can provide an indication of the extent to which predictions about future cohorts of older adults can be based upon characteristics of past and present cohorts. The second is through the analysis of inter-individual variability. More particularly, research into the conditions determining the relations between well-being on the one hand and living arrangements or network characteristics on the other is proposed. Such knowledge can provide insight into the question as to whether differences in living arrangements or in networks among older adults can be glossed over or should be taken into account.