People should “right-size” their housing throughout their lives to get the most out of their homes, a think tank says today.

The International Longevity Centre-UK (ILC-UK) paper argues that calls made in the past for older people living in large homes to be penalised were both ageist and irrelevant.

“The cultural practice of over-consumption of housing is prevalent across all ages, although older people, through possessing greater financial resources, may be best placed to act upon this aspiration,” the paper concludes.

A lack of desirable retirement housing, the paper suggests, dissuades many older people from moving - reducing the supply of appropriate homes for younger people.

It points out that building of housing for older people has collapsed from over 30,000 units a year in the 1980s to around 8,000 today.

However the think tank also concludes that a complex array of factors has left many older people in homes that no longer meet their needs.
These factors include our tendency to deny the realities of ageing, a state-of-mind that means many are not aware of the benefits retirement housing offers. Research shows that appropriate housing can postpone the onset of chronic conditions or frailty and prevent or delay care home admissions.

The paper recommends that:

  • Health and social care policy should explicitly encourage people to access the right form of housing before crises emerge
  • The government should help councils assess whether the local supply of retirement housing (based on local demographics) is adequate
  • Providers should work together to promote retirement housing and improve its image - and design quality
  • The sector should study successful age-segregated housing for other demographics (such as students) and age-related products (such as Saga holidays).

Both older people and local authorities see retirement housing as for people with significant health or care needs. For older people, this, together with perceptions that such properties are often isolated and expensive, reinforces the idea that such housing is “not for me”.

Downsizing in later life and appropriate housing size across our lifetime is published by Hanover Housing as part of its Hanover@50 Debate.

Hanover chief executive Bruce Moore said: “Individuals need to consider making trade-offs about the housing we require as consumers, as we do with everything else.

“If people want spare rooms - no matter what their age - they may need to consider whether the cost of those extra rooms is a price worth paying. Downsizing is often a good way to release money, or for funding either a nicer - but smaller - home, or a home with onsite care and support where that is needed.”

Dylan Kneale from ILC-UK added: “We must all think harder about the sort of housing we are likely to want to live in as we age. Too many of us deny the impact of ageing and end up in inappropriate housing. Local authorities and central government can help by ensuring that planning policy supports the provision of adequate housing for all ages. Planners and policy-makers must best recognise the impact of our ageing society and develop adequate housing provision for all ages.”


Notes to Editors:

  1. Hanover provides 19,000 homes for older people across England and Wales.
  2. The Hanover@50 Debate features papers from ten think tanks to be published between April and June. For more information on Hanover and to access these papers visit Papers by the RSA and Demos are also published this month as part of the series.
  3. For further information about these papers and Hanover@50, or to arrange an interview, please contact Ben Furner on 01273 463461 or email


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