It's good for you and good for society

24/02/14
 

The term “downsizing” seems to be a dirty word in the UK yet just over the pond our American friends are twice as likely to pack their bags, sell up and head off to a condo in the sun once their chickens have flown the coop.

So is it the weather that stops us Brits from trading down, our obsession with space, or the idea that our home is our castle until the pearly gates above appear before us?

The startling fact is that the UK currently has over 25 million under-occupied bedrooms. This is in spite of an unprecedented housing crisis where not enough new homes are being built and young families are squeezed into ever smaller spaces.

Experts tell us we need to build 100,000 new homes each year for the next 10 years just to keep up with our changing living arrangements. Why? Because more people are living on their own through divorce, more people are living longer in general (which is great news), our population is growing, and fewer people are moving out of their homes after their own families have grown up.

If we don’t want to start a massive building programme then don’t we need to make better use of the existing homes we have?

The Intergenerational Foundation wanted to find out why people choose to downsize or not and conducted research looking at what people wanted from downsizing, what they thought the barriers were and how they felt about having made the decision to downsize. We therefore spoke to a group of people who had made the decision to downsize together with a group of people who had decided to stay put.

The great news is that all those people who chose to downsize saw it as a positive, liberating experience, freeing them from the tyranny of expensive upkeep, large gardens, too many stairs and high bills, freeing up cash for holidays, outings and other pleasurable pursuits.

Those that chose not to downsize worried about where they would keep their possessions, how much space they would have, and where they would park their car, preferring to close off rooms completely rather than contemplate the turmoil of moving.

However, all those questioned were unanimous in recommending that anyone contemplating downsizing should do it before they became too old to cope with the move. All those surveyed recommended staying in the local area unless the move was to be closer to family, and all agreed that it would be important to live in walking distance to shops and local services.

There is much that can be done to help downsizers through the process and we welcome the launch of Downsizing Direct in providing homeowners with support and guidance through the process.

Liz Emerson, Intergenerational Foundation

 

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