The government recently released its housing white paper setting out its ideas on how to fix the UK’s ‘broken’ housing market. Alongside plans to encourage housebuilders to develop more sites faster and with a greater diversity of housing types, there will be guidance for local authorities on how to meet the housing needs of older people.
The report acknowledges the fact that well-designed accommodation helps people to live independently in their own homes for longer and that quality of life can be improved by making the move at the right time. It also rightly states that emotional ties and the cost of moving can make downsizing a seemingly insurmountable challenge. So what does it take for older people to liberate themselves from their family homes? To answer that question you could ask what prompted the residents of Lynwood Village to take the plunge; we did, and here’s what they said:
Even if you have lots of friends and a supportive family, isolation can creep up on you. When seeing anyone involves making formal arrangements and journeys feel like too much of a challenge, suddenly a week slips by and you’ve seen no-one. At Lynwood there are always people around to talk to; it’s one of the main reasons people move here.
Sometimes the traditional retirement dream of a country cottage with roses round the door becomes, in reality, a bit too far away from everyone and everything. Moving closer to family means it’s easier to spend time with them and they worry less about you being so far away.
Often the loss of a partner after decades of marriage triggers the decision to downsize and move somewhere with support. For long-term singles it’s the knowledge that they don’t have any immediate support at hand that makes them think about their future and how they might put that support in place. Moving to Lynwood solves the problem of current and future care needs and having a 24 hour concierge service brings peace of mind to residents and their families.
Even the most avidly green-fingered reach a point where their beloved gardens become a burden rather than a pleasure. You could pay someone to take care of it but they never do it quite as you would like. Liberating yourself from the stress of your garden can be a genuine relief. At Lynwood you can sit on your balcony and watch someone else mow the lawns…
Too big to clean, expensive to heat and maintain, steep drive, lots of stairs; there are many ways in which a previously perfect family home becomes completely wrong for you now. You may feel an emotional tie but your retirement years are about being liberated from work and the demands of raising a family, so why spend precious time and money running and maintaining a home that no longer suits your needs and will only become more unsuitable over time? If you talk to residents at Lynwood they all say they wish they’d moved here sooner and that they have no regrets.
Downsizing usually means moving to a home that costs less than the one you are selling, freeing up equity that you can put to good use. Whether you choose to help your children (or grandchildren) on to, or further up, the housing ladder or splurge on luxury holidays, releasing pent-up housing equity can provide a welcome boost to pension pots, savings and, if they deserve it, your family. The cost of moving may be high, but if you’re lucky enough to have an equity-based cushion it can make sound financial sense.
So, why aren’t more people downsizing?
None of the perceived barriers to downsizing are insurmountable and the benefits can be life-changing, but if people are going to give up their family home they need a very appealing alternative. The main problem with much of the current retirement housing stock is that it lacks aspiration, they’re simply not desirable properties in their own right. We need more places like Lynwood but also more housing that really understands and meets the needs of our ageing population. We don’t need sad little clusters of tiny bungalows, we need fabulous apartments in the middle of towns and retirement villages with brilliant facilities. Then people will actively look forward to downsizing because the improvement to their quality of life will be so inevitable that the decision, quite simply, becomes a no-brainer.