Downsizing and retirement village living are popularly regarded as the norm for older Australians, when in reality this accounts for only a small proportion of them. Most remain in their own larger detached homes in the general community for as long as possible, until disability or illness renders this difficult or impossible. However the design of most detached suburban houses does not facilitate ageing in place. Based on findings from two recent research projects funded by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, this paper explores why most older Australians remain in their own homes, why those who do move or downsize do so, into what types of dwellings and tenure, and how they go about this process. The findings challenge conventional understandings of both housing utilization and downsizing. Underutilisation is largely a misnomer amongst older Australians and downsizing is relatively rare. Those who do downsize do so generally for lifestyle and reduced maintenance rather than financial reasons, yet there is a lack of supply of appropriately designed, located and affordable housing which ironically might encourage moving/downsizing to the benefit of the ageing population and the wider housing market. These findings also support the need to accelerate the adoption of universal design principles in both housing and neighbourhoods, a need also recognized by older people themselves.
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