Moving or staying put: Deciding where to live in later life

Where do Australians want to live as they get older? What factors do they consider when making a decision about where to live in later life?

Although it is widely accepted that the majority of older adults prefer to live in the community rather than in residential aged care, our general understanding of the housing preferences and choices of Australians in later life is underdeveloped.

To investigate these and other issues around housing, National Seniors Productive Ageing Centre commissioned the Centre for Research on Ageing at Curtin University of Technology to investigate the housing preferences and choices of National Seniors’ members in Western Australia. 

The results of this investigation challenge the common perception that older people will spend most of their later life in one home, revealing that two in three people move between the ages of 55 and 75. It also identifies four prominent themes that influence the decision to move or stay: house and home, lifestyle, location and access to services.

The research findings illustrate the complexity of the decision of where to live in later life. Older adults are a very diverse group, with almost as many reasons for moving house as there are people. In addition, there are clear differences between older adults of different age cohorts in terms of their moving preferences and the factors they consider when deciding whether or not to move. 

The research also confirms the importance of age-friendly housing design, with many older adults indicating this affected their decisions. Others attempted to make their existing home more age-friendly by making modifications, and those who had were significantly less likely to consider moving homes.

The results of this work raise significant questions for policy makers. Are government and service providers prepared for the increasing number of older adults whose preference is to move home? What can policy makers and service providers do to help ensure older adults are able to make unfettered decisions about where to live in later life?

How can we make homes more accessible for older adults? How can we encourage people to think about their future housing needs and plan ahead?

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