Rightsizing and RightPlace are two interlinked research projects investigating the housing options available to older people, using a combination of large-scale data analysis, surveys and community-led action planning. Both projects critique the concept of downsizing, a policy position that we argue inadequately accounts for both the inequalities within the older population, and actively promotes simplistic conception of older people’s decision-making process for reasons of political expedience. We instead demonstrate the importance place identity in the ways that older people evaluate their housing options in later life, which suggests the need for investments in the neighbourhood environment and social infrastructure rather than just new housing.
The Rightsizing project used a large longitudinal dataset (Understanding Society) to analyse all the moves that older people in the survey had made in the last decade. This was used not just to counter the idea of downsizing (over half of older people moved to a home that was the same size or bigger than their last one), but also highlight the barriers facing different groups of older people.
The RightPlace project takes this further, using latent class analysis to show a series of different cohorts of older people who share similar feelings about their home and neighbourhood, using advanced statistics to understand the drivers behind someones desire to ‘age in place’ or move home in later life. The projects articulate the diversity of older people, and the need to move away from a focus only on specialist housing as a response to population ageing. We test this model though a participatory design-led research methodology, in which we worked with older people and policy-makers in two Greater Manchester neighbourhoods to develop ‘Ageing in Place Prospectus’ to inform future neighbourhood and housing strategies.