Saga welcomes the Government’s proposals to spend £51m on funding home adaptations to enable older people to live in their own homes for longer. The New Deal for Older People should focus on helping them live at home, with the benefit of simple alterations, repairs or safety adaptations, but the idea of trying to persuade older people to move to smaller accommodation and let their council rent out their family home to young families is unlikely to prove popular. Older people should not feel pressured into having to move house.
Indeed, research by Saga Equity Release services shows that 89% of over 50s believe where they live is more than just bricks and mortar and half (48%) say it is where they want to grow old. Therefore, downsizing is not older people’s preferred choice and politicians should be wary of engaging in this area.
“Recent studies suggesting that older generations are 'hoarding housing' have come across as extremely offensive to older people and I can understand why" said Dr Ros Altmann, Director General of Saga "the implication is that either they don't deserve to live in the house they're in or that somebody else deserves it more!"
"The suggestion that if you live in a three bedroom house you should only need one room as you get older is simply wrong. There are many occasions when couples, or individuals need extra space to accommodate overnight visitors. For example some have Carers or family that may need to stay overnight if they are ill, some regularly take care of children or grandchildren to allow parents to work and there are also many couples who, for health reasons, find themselves needing separate bedrooms.
"I agree that it does make sense for people, as they get older, to consider whether they want to live somewhere else, but this must be entirely their choice and not something that they should feel pressured into. The biggest problem that we have in the UK is that the existing housing stock simply doesn't reflect the needs of an ageing population. New build properties are usually designed with the young in mind, not older people. What we really need is purpose built housing - that is still of a reasonable size - that would encourage people to downsize if they want to, something that is in scant existence at this moment in time.
"The family home is about so much more than just bricks and mortar. It may need adaptations, such as handrails or emergency alarms, but it's wrong to highlight older people who live in a three or four bedroom house and somehow say they don't deserve to be in it. Such social engineering is not likely to strike a chord with most older people."