Housing and Homelessness

Older People's Housing: Choice, Quality of Life, and Under-Occupation

  • Published 29th May 2012
  • Authors: Jenny Pannell, , Hannah Aldridge, , Peter Kenway,
  • Category: Housing and Homelessness

This study moves the debate on older people's housing away from simplistic notions about 'holding onto housing' to wider questions about choice and demand. It answers the following questions:

  • If an older person is thinking about moving, do they have a wide enough choice of housing?
  • What is the impact on their well-being and quality of life?
  • How far do such moves free up housing for families?

Using original analysis of official data,  and interviews with key players we found:

  • There are 7.3 million older households in England (containing no-one under 55) living in either mainstream or specialist housing. About 3 per cent of these households move per year.
  • The specialist housing currently on offer does not reflect the choices that most older people make. Three-quarters of all older households are owner-occupiers but only one quarter of specialist housing is for purchase. Most older people want a home with at least two bedrooms but most specialist provision has only one bedroom.
  • The official definition implies that any single or couple household with three or more bedrooms ‘under-occupies’. Of the 8 million under-occupying households, there are nearly as many other (non-older) households as older ones.
  • Since 57 per cent of all older households (and 68 per cent of older home-owners) ‘under-occupy’, the official definition is at odds with older people’s views and preferencesDeath is more important than downsizing in ‘releasing’ larger homes: 85 per cent of homes with three or more bedrooms are ‘released’ by older people due to death rather than a move to a smaller home.
  • An older person’s health can benefit from a move to more suitable housing as long as it is an informed choice and they remain in control. ‘Staying put’ can also be the right choice.


Read the full, follow up, report  - Market Assessment of Housing Options for Older People.

About this report
This summary report, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, is written by Jenny Pannell, Hannah Aldridge and Peter Kenway. The full report, Market Assessment of Housing Options for Older People, is published by the New Policy Institute.