Helping older people downsize

The focus is usually on building new homes for the younger generations at the bottom of the housing ladder.

Sometimes, the narrative extends to older people downsizing to free up family housing, based on the assumption that older people no longer need extra bedrooms when their families have grown up and left. Except that, in many cases, grandchildren regularly come around to stay – so those who do choose to downsize tend to make modest reductions in the size of their home.

Many older people stay living in the family home. There may be push factors, such as struggling to maintain the garden or getting up and down the stairs, that give cause to consider the alternatives. There may also be a shiny new retirement living scheme down the road that has a certain pull in terms of companionship and on-call support.

But these pushes and pulls are often outweighed by emotional attachments and the sheer hassle of moving.

Home improvement agencies are very skilled at supporting people to carry out repairs and adaptations to their home. We were interested to see if they could use the same skills to provide emotional support and practical assistance to someone who would prefer to move – similar to the role of senior mover manager that is growing in popularity across the Atlantic.

Thanks to a donation from Taylor Wimpey to Foundations Independent Living Trust, we’re testing out this approach in Bristol and Calderdale. It’s early days, but initial feedback looks promising.

These pilots will be important in testing out one of the recommendations of the review of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFG) that was published by the Department of Health and Social Care at the end of 2018 – that DFG should be used to support a move where that leads to better outcomes than staying and adapting.

You can read Foundations’ report, ‘From staying put to moving on’ at www.foundations.uk.com/resources/caseworkers/move-on-paper

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