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Rightsizing homes could end downsizing culture

A new report has revealed a better future for older people’s housing with a claim that a radical rethink of policy could mean the end to “downsizing.”

Downsizing is a phenomenon where older people are forced to move to smaller homes due to illness, financial pressures or family bereavement. But to mark the International Day of Older Persons, a report has called for the end to this practice and for better housing options for older people.

With almost 700 million people worldwide over the age of 60 and the average life expectancy of people in the UK rising to 81, the report argues that local councils, planners and developers need to change what’s on offer to older people.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority / Centre for Ageing Better report reveals the types of houses older people live in across the UK and the sort of house moves they make and why.

Rachael Docking, housing lead at the Centre for Ageing Better, explained:

It’s often assumed that people want to ‘downsize’ to more manageable properties as they age. In fact, people in later life have the same desires to improve quality of life as any of us.

We need to move away from a focus on delivering homes ‘for older people’ and deliver an adequate and diverse supply of adaptable, accessible housing that’s fit for people of all ages.

The report identifies “rightsizing” as the way forward, where older people take an active, positive choice to move home before it becomes necessary to one which meets their current and future needs.

Professor Stefan White, Manchester School of Architecture, Manchester Metropolitan University commented:

Our report argues that ‘rightsizing’ enables a more proactive and nuanced discussion about the diversity of requirement for older people’s housing

While this requires housing strategies to engage more fully with the local circumstances of older people, we believe it releases great potential for positive action.

Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham added:

More action is needed if we are to meet the challenges of a fast-growing older population and make life better for us all as we age.

Image by Andy Blackledge / Creative Commons