The built environment can respond to human needs and influence behaviors. An approach to design that grows from essential human conditions arguably is a preferable means of structuring the built world in a responsible and sustainable manner. Although new and innovative building technologies can achieve great strides in sustainability, underlying and fundamental human needs and behaviors may be an equally important source of inspiration and creativity in the built environment.

This thesis addresses social and psychological needs of the aging population in three communities in the vicinity of Rochester, New York. Through understandings of sense of place, the inquiry is the extent to which attributes of these communities respond to such needs in a way that creates an enriching quality of life. The intent is to demonstrate that, by cultivating a sense of place through the attributes of a community, the aging population might experience enrichment and vitality in their day-to-day lives. The genesis for this study is the fact that, in the United States and throughout the world, the aging population is growing at a rate that is far greater than that of the general population as a whole. This trend is predicted to continue. Absent solutions in the structure of communities that stem from important social and psychological needs of the aging population, the elderly face risk of isolation, lack of meaningful purpose, and detachment.

This thesis proposes a model for Living in Place, which is defined as the engagement and integration of residents in the community structure to experience a meaningful quality of life, where the community as a whole benefits from the richness of demographic diversity. Rather than a model in which the aging are viewed in a state of decline, without an opportunity to contribute to the social capital of a community, Living in Place embraces a view toward continued enrichment and participation of the elderly. The proposal is that, by linking the social and psychological needs of the aging, to sociological and architectural principles of sense of place, to physical manifestations of sense of place, a model for Living in Place is achieved, and the elderly experience vitality rather than decline. As a final outcome, essential principles relating to the composition of a community emerge, through which a society-wide model for Living in Place might be obtained.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Older people--Dwellings--New York (State)--Rochester--Design and construction; Neighborhoods--New York (State)--Rochester--Case studies; Place (Philosophy); Belonging (Social psychology)

Publication Date


Document Type


Student Type


Degree Name

Architecture (M.Arch.)

Department, Program, or Center

Architecture (GIS)


Dennis A. Andrejko

Advisor/Committee Member

M. Ann Howard

Advisor/Committee Member

Giovanna Potesta


RIT – Main Campus

Plan Codes