OPINION: We shouldn't be told when we need to downsize our homes
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Two attitude types exist when it comes to the places we choose to live. For some, our house is a home. For others, it’s a property.
Homes tend to be long-serving labours of love, where families grew up, memories made, and four walls mean more than bricks and mortar and a potential rising price tag.
Property is all about financial investment, with one house leading to another and each purchase is means to an end with no emotion involved.
It’s a stark difference but an increasingly apparent one.
Conversations with friends regularly focus on their efforts to persuade elderly parents to downsize from large family homes for a bungalow, or single storey living as lifestyle gurus label it.
Surrounded by more than four decades of accumulated family flotsam and jetsam, it’s their home with deep emotional attachment. Moving feels like giving up rather than liberating and living unencumbered by all the issues large houses bring.
So many friends are treading on eggshells with their parents about this, with their case not helped by the government stomping in with its size 11s to encourage older people “rattling around” in large houses to downsize to free up space for younger people.
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A housing minister dictating that they should shift from a big box to a small box with no consideration to the emotions attached to what they worked hard to create, is blundering.
Housing minister Chris Pincher preached that four in ten homes were too big for their owners, promising to introduce plans to encourage developers to build more properties for pensioners. It just gets people’s backs up.
They will be compulsory moving over-55s to purpose built retirement ‘villages’ next creating old people’s ghettos, out of sight and out of mind.
Older people contribute hugely to communities where they have lived for decades. They have the time, local knowledge and relationships and, keeping up with activities outside the home and mixing with younger people, keeps them stimulated and active.
There’s something deeply psychologically affecting about downsizing. Read: Giving up. Another step to everything stopping
It’s not the government’s place to make people feel uncomfortable about their own choices or play on their conscience by saying they need to move out to give younger people the chance to start families with four bedrooms.
Michael Gove is in discussion with the Department of Health and Social Care about ways to encourage housebuilders to deliver more homes designed for assisted living.
Assisted living? Have they met many over-60s? Many are fitter and more on the ball than a lot of 40-year-olds.
With the astronomical cost of childcare, many are full-time carers for small grandchildren, and after-school care providers for older children and need the space.
Others have their very elderly parents living with them.
Yet the government believe three million pensioners cannot downsize because of a lack of suitable housing and amid calls for a stamp duty cut for over-60s to encourage them to move out of their more spacious homes.
Pincher said: “In the early 1990s something like 31 per cent of properties were under-occupied — they were too big for the numbers of people rattling around inside them. Now that percentage is 38 per cent.”
Society is much changed since 1990.
“There is an opportunity to encourage downsizing, to encourage the growth of the later living sector in order to free up homes in the middle of the market — two- and three-bedroom semis — so those properties can be moved in to.”
This is approaching housing in completely the wrong way and the government has just made the job of grown-up children of people in their 80s with all their reasons to stay put, even harder.
Why is everyone so angry?
Whether it’s Covid, the economy, or just 2021 life, something is stoking people’s tempers to disproportionate explosions of anger.
Why are so many people so angry and aggressive, raging, snapping and abusing about minor inconveniences or incidents?
A lack of patience leading to hostility and in-your-face flare ups are rising and need to be addressed.
A close friend spent this week upset by an unprovoked way over-the-top response by two men in a London bar.
They were impatient to be served while the bartender prepared her round of drinks, so the intimidated bartender started on their drinks before finishing her order.
She politely pointed out to the bartender she had an outstanding drink and was subjected to a violent barrage of profanities and abuse by both men because they wanted their drinks instantly.
It’s been described as the ‘Amazon Prime generation’, 30-55-year-olds who expect to have everything when they want it.
They are clogging up A&E departments with minor ailments that could wait for a doctor or walk in centre but believe they entitled to immediate service and are angry if they don’t get it.
Short fuses and escalations of unnecessary anger are prevalent in shops, rages on the roads, in restaurants and on social media with no concern.
Those men probably thought nothing of their outburst, but it ruined my friend’s weekend in London and week.
There is never an excuse for such angry attacks.
Covid might be making everyone frustrated, but adults should deal with it and be decent. It’s not difficult.