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Housing changes ahead as baby boomers plan to sell

Thursday, March 13, 2014
Housing changes ahead as baby boomers plan to sell

Half of the baby boomers surveyed for a study on ageing say they plan to move or downsize as they get older – a trend government needs to factor into its housing policy and planning the study authors say.

The findings are the latest from a longitudinal study on ageing in New Zealand by a team of researchers from Massey University’s School of Psychology. The study, called Independence, Contributions and Connections (ICC), surveyed 2000 ‘baby boomers’ aged 63 to 78 years about a range of issues including housing, volunteering, employment, internet access and social connections. Researchers now seek online feedback and commentary on their findings from the wider public to help enrich the data.

Professor Christine Stephens, one of the study co-leaders, says the findings on housing reveal a significant emerging trend likely to have a major impact on New Zealand’s housing situation in the future.

Nearly half (49 per cent) of those surveyed said they anticipated moving to a new location, while 45 per cent said they wished to stay in the same area but move to a smaller residence.

“This is a significant indication when you consider that baby boomers are one of the largest cohorts of our population and that we already have a housing shortage,” Professor Stephens says.

While government policy is focussed on keeping people in their own homes, the implications of the survey suggest a glut of larger homes and a need for more small homes as baby boomers look to sell up and downsize, she says.

“Since the ICC study shows that 49 per cent of older New Zealanders would like to move, this also provides an impetus for considering what sort of housing opportunities may need to be provided in the future to enable people to age well,” the study authors say.

Just over a quarter of the respondents to the postal and internet survey said they would consider moving to a retirement home if their health declined to avoid family or whanau having to care for them.

But for those in good health, Professor Stephens says it is time to consider housing models other than retirement villages. While these can be popular for older people wanting independence but with easy access to health and social facilities, they also meant older people were effectively segregated from the rest of society.

Based physically on the fringes of towns and cities often in high security, gated settings, they appealed to people seeking to feel safe and secure. “What happens is that residents tend to feel more fearful and anxious of the world outside their protected village,” she says. “And it means their valuable experience, knowledge and skills are not being used or valued in the community”.

In the ‘social connections’ topic covered in the survey, researchers found nearly half (45 per cent) of baby boomers keep in touch with family and friends through regular texting. But only a quarter to a third meet friends, children and neighbours face to face twice weekly or more.

“The issues raised by these initial findings focus more on who is not connecting,” states a summary of the survey section titled How we are keeping in touch. “Older people in our sample are using a variety of ways of keeping in touch but the proportions for each mode are relatively small…This raises questions about the difficulties of keeping in touch as we get older and the problems of isolation and loneliness that some older people face”.

The survey captures the latest input of data from the ongoing Health, Work and Retirement study (HWR)l led by Professor Fiona Alpass and Professor Stephens, funded initially by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. The latest ICC wave was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

The survey is providing valuable data and insights for policy makers, health providers, employers and families as a greater proportion of the population ages, presenting “an immense social and economic challenge in the 21st Century”, the study states.

Preliminary results of the survey can be found here online, with the opportunity for comment and feedback.


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