The sheer volume of information that we are all expected to process every day really can feel overwhelming. The lists of publications, reports, blogs and comments that we haven’t had time to read grows ever longer so no wonder many people just give up and stop even trying to keep up.
For those of us involved in the field of housing and ageing, constantly trying to reflect the diverse reality of older people’s everyday lives, hopes and experiences, challenging the stream of negative, reductive headlines is increasingly challenging.
But we have to persevere and keep on analysing the reliable sources of information, because without rigorous analysis of solid data and application of evidence we will fail to develop workable solutions to the many housing issues faced by people of all ages.
Pitting the generations against each other, stoking a blame culture with a simplistic ‘the old caused all of the problems faced by the young‘ is profoundly damaging to our society. With regard to housing, the misleading narrative that says if only old people would move out of their homes young people wouldn’t have a housing problem, is not only clearly illogical, but it also fails to analyse the multiple root causes of current housing problems.
Nor is it a simple numbers game, building ‘units’ of accommodation rather than creating decent, affordable, accessible and sustainable homes for the long term good of society.
The reasons why older people are home owners whilst younger people increasingly face seemingly insurmountable obstacles to living in a secure, affordable home, let alone buy one, are multifaceted.
Policies which have supported buy to let or invest, declining numbers of social rented homes, land-banking, rising inequalities, lower incomes & insecure employment resulting in limited access to mortgages compared with the 80s and 90s [when home ownership suddenly opened up for a whole generation of working people], not to mention welfare reform are just some of the many reasons that we are in a housing crisis.
So easily lost in all of this maelstrom is the situation of the million or more lower income older home owners living in non-decent homes, who face day to day worry about repairing, adapting – even insuring or heating – their homes. Those with families don’t want to be a ‘burden’, many see the difficulties faced by their grandchildren and want to help, often by passing on even limited equity in their homes. A small amount of practical help can go a long way to reducing not only the health risks that result from living in a cold home, or one with falls hazards, but also the grinding worry.
This is why handyperson, home improvement agency and the associated practical services that they offer are so important and we just have to keep on making the case.