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Understanding Downsizing

Why have the rates of downsizing stagnated in Britain compared to other ageing countries? As a companion-piece to our previous study, Hoarding of Housing: the intergenerational crisis in the housing market, IF decided to investigate which factors are likely to encourage an elderly household to downsize, and why in many cases they end up not doing so.

With growing numbers of elderly people living in family-sized homes after their children have moved out, more and more of Britain’s housing stock is at risk of being under-utilised at a time when we have a national housing crisis. IF conducted qualitative interviews with a sample group of pensioner households whose membership was aged between 65 and 75 – half of whom had downsized and the other half had not – to ask them why they had followed the particular path they had chosen.

The results of this study found that downsizers said they felt liberated by the reduced burden from household bills, gardening and maintenance tasks, indicating that the process can have many positive benefits, but for those who hadn’t downsized the pull of holding on to their cherished family memories and possessions with sentimental value was proving too much to resist. This study suggests that Britain could unlock a downsizing revolution, if we can find a way of selling the benefits of following this option to the older generation.