DOWNSIZING MAKES SENSE

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ALONE, the charity that supports older people to maintain independent living in their own homes, has welcomed the Government’s recently published ‘Housing Options for Our Ageing Population’ report. Getting older people to downsize and move into smaller housing units to free up larger properties that are unused fully is a challenge that the Government is now attempting to tackle.
Minister for Older People Jim Daly visited ALONE’s head office last week to view the charity’s assistive technology to support older people to age at home for longer.According to ALONE CEO Seán Moynihan: “We welcome the Government’s statement on housing options for older people and the recognition from Minister Daly and Minister English that housing for older people needs an element of support.”

“There is an assumption that the housing needs of older people have already been met. Yet, the TILDA report shows that 58 per cent of older people have problems with housing conditions. With a rapidly ageing population, new policy and housing models are required to prevent a housing crisis for older people in the years to come.Mr Moynihan noted the aim to build 30 per cent of new houses to accommodate the country’s ageing population (20,000 people a year turn 65) and to ensure that half of all new apartment developments align with the needs of older people and those with mobility issues.

“It is also important to be conscious of community and social inclusion for older people,” he added. The ALONE charity has campaigned for a wide range of housing options to cater to the life-cycle and better match the level of care needed for people who want to remain living independently.According to its own housing report, released last year, building one-and two-bedroom homes for older people can increase their housing options and help to mitigate the housing crisis among larger families, saving money in building costs for larger homes.

“Providing a spectrum of housing options with supports works to maintain independence and choice for every older person” is a key objective of the report. “From a care perspective, this also lessens the reliance on hospital and nursing homecare which can incur large costs.” Mr Moynihan concluded: “It is vitally important that we provide choice in housing to older people to enable them to age in surroundings comfortable to them. Our research has shown that funding housing with support options, through adaptation grants and purpose-built housing, will save government money and protect the independence of the older person”The charity also welcomed the Government’s research into ‘right-sizing’ which indicated that with incentives, 15 per cent of older people would consider moving to a different home within their community.

Other options could see older people sharing their existing property with young people (i.e. students) as is commonly applied in Europe. These younger lodgers then assist the property owner in the house in exchange for lower rent payments, thus everyone wins. Sharing with a carer who requires accommodation is another option that could be put into practice in big cities such as Dublin where housing is expensive. This could be done on an informal basis as housing is clearly needed for carers and others working in the health sector.

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