Why downsizing doesn’t appeal to the elderly “Home-blockers” in our community

Home-blocking is a term used to describe the aging population’s seeming determination to stay in the family home rather than downsizing to release urgently needed homes back to the local community.

The UK elderly are at odds with their counterparts in the USA and Australia:  just 1% of people over 60 in the UK live in retirement homes, compared with 17% in the States and 13% in Australia. So, what isn’t happening in the UK?

The major barriers to downsizing from a family home into something smaller are practical, financial and emotional.

While I advocate the reduction or abolition of stamp duty for the elderly and urge developers to ensure that most new housing development is suitable for the 20% of our population aged 65 and over, I am also keenly aware that emotional barriers to downsizing will challenge any potential homemover until circumstances force them out.

Any neighbourhood planning arising from the recent Housing Policy White Paper needs to consider the emotional impact downsizing will have on the elderly. Letting go of a lifetime of possessions without creating safe passage to others who will appreciate and reuse them is unthinkable.

As a downsizing specialist, I work with elderly people to support their decisions about what to keep and move with, and what to let go. Sometimes we can spend months deciding what to keep and then just take 10 days to sort through everything else. Or the other way around. Either way, the process is the same while the stories need to be told, legacies created and safe passage of goods ensured.

The emotional impact of downsizing can delay decision making far more seriously than any financial and practical issues. Often I am “rightsizing” my clients to make the best use of the space they have, while they wait for the unwelcome shove from Mother Nature to make that downsizing decision for them. Until this type of support service for our seniors grows sufficiently as it has in the USA where organisations such as The National Association of Senior Move Managers thrive, the critics will just have to live with their unruly home-blockers.

With thanks to Louise Cooper’s article in The Sunday Times Money Section May 28, 2017.

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