Today’s (21.02.14) call by the Chartered Institute of Housing to provide older people with a stamp duty break to encourage them to downsize has attracted its critics. It was suggested that it is a way to ‘force people out’ of their homes when there is no need.
Clearly downsizing is a word laden with emotion. To many it sounds like giving up. Giving up the family home and giving up on the way of life currently enjoyed.
But it doesn’t have to be that way and we need to take a fresh look at the downsizing debate.
Growing numbers of older people are living alone and are increasingly isolated from their community. This has a negative impact on their physical health and mental wellbeing, which in turn puts greater strain on a health and social care system already under pressure.
Yet many frail older people are still living in their family home, whether it’s to hold on to memories, protect the children’s inheritance or because they’re afraid of the future. Isn’t it time to swap bricks and mortar for what is actually going to give us comfort in later life? Like warmth, good food, companionship and support.
I can understand that some people are reluctant to move, it’s a big shift and can be stressful. If you’re still fit and able, enjoy a good quality of life and have a strong support network, then maybe downsizing isn’t a choice you need to make yet.
But for others downsizing can be a positive choice. It can be about taking control of your life by choosing an environment to live in that allows you to thrive, not just survive. Environments like Evermore that provide a new type of family living where you still own your home but are surrounded by like-minded people and a safety net when you need it.
Whether we need stamp duty relief, other concessions, or more help with the physical relocation is secondary to two underlying issues. There needs to be societal change in the way we approach planning for later life and what constitutes quality of life as we age.
After all, an Englishman’s home may be his castle but it won’t keep him company, nor will it nurture his body and soul.
Sara McKee, Evermore Founder and Director of Market Innovation
Follow Sara @SaraMcKeeFRSA