AS I SEE IT
BY MARIANNE HERON
NO matter how welcome the Housing For All plan, I don’t believe that I am the only person to be alienated by the cavalier way Government view older people as a group to be conveniently pushed around to solve their problems.
Is anyone in the corridors of power listening to what older people actually want? It’s easy to excuse the Government and civil servants for being overworked and preoccupied with the pressures of Covid, Brexit and whatever other crisis happens to hit them.
But when the evidence is presented to them on a plate in fact-finding surveys, sometimes they still adopt the headless chicken approach and ignore the information which would help them make appropriate decisions.
Take the suggestion in the Housing For All that older people should move from their family homes in order to help solve the housing crisis. Preferably they should move into apartments, according to Housing Minister Darragh O Brien, encouraged by his offer of a mere half a percent reduction in stamp duty as an incentive.
This completely ignores several surveys which show clearly that over 55s, (hardly half way through life when you consider that half the people born today are going to live to be 100 ) don’t want to move. A survey by TCD and DIT published this month showed that 88% of over 55s say don’t want to move for understandable reasons. They are attached to the area where they live, they like being near shops, their families and they enjoy the peace and quiet of their gardens. Does this suggest would they would enjoy being in apartments? It’s not the kind of thing that you would wish on your granny or granddad, to be made to feel that they should be pushed out the home where they raised their family in familiar surroundings and moved into anonymous flatland, to help the State solve the housing crisis.
If the powers-that-be did their homework they might notice that in an earlier survey carried out in 2019 only 4% — yes 4% — of mature home owners with two or more vacant bedrooms were prepared to move home. If there were smaller purpose built, less expensive houses, (houses not apartments) suitable for older people, the percentage prepared to move went up to 15 to 20%. This shows up clearly the glaring gap in the housing market for elders where there is a lack of options between care homes and ageing in place in existing homes.
The kind of solutions like retirement villages (though these are not for everyone,) or purpose-built housing in the community available elsewhere in the world barely exist here. There are plenty of solutions, too, which would enable owners to age in place with the assistance of grants. A previous paper on Housing for Older People lists a variety of ways in which this could be achieved from dividing homes into apartments to making them age friendly and states:” Research suggests that older people wish to remain in place… and lead full and meaningful lives in their own terms.”
The Minister also has his eye on the homes lying vacant because their elderly owners are in nursing home care and has proposed that the Fair Deal scheme should be amended to push these homes onto the rental or for sale market.
Previously 80% of rental from such homes had to be contributed towards the Fair Deal scheme to cover nursing homes costs.
Will it work?
The assumption here is that granny or granddad and family will be happy to have strangers move into the home, possibly emptied of family furniture or to sell it off while the owner is still alive.
Would you wish that one on granny?h