Housing

Deciding where to live during various life stages was an important consideration for people we spoke with and many were in the process of transition. When to move, what type of accommodation, where and who helps to make those decisions were all important issues people spoke about.

People who wanted to remain in their own home did so because they knew everyone in their neighbourhood, lived near family, amenities were close by, they liked to have space, and they felt comfortable there. People spoke about the sense of attachment they had to their house and were prepared to pay for assistance maintaining it.

Dot feels a sense of comfort in her own home and likes that she knows where everything is.

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Lyn and Robin like their neighbourhood and did not want to move away. They decided to renovate their house instead of downsizing.

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As people’s health changed, having space of their own was identified as important. This applied to people who rented as well as owned their own home. The availability of suitable accommodation for older people was lacking in some areas and communities. For some people, sharing accommodation with relatives was stressful, for others this was supportive and comforting.

Elaine M would like a place of her own because her house is often crowded and it causes her stress.

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Living with family was another alternative to remaining at home. People who had lived with their children or grandchildren found it a positive experience. Access to home care services was vital for people with health or mobility problems to remain in their own home longer. These supports included maintenance assistance such as rails, ramps, or a chair lift. Home, personal and respite care services also assisted individuals to remain at home.

Guymun wants to remain at home where she has her granddaughters to help her but she also appreciates that the aged care service can help with food and bathing.

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Some people who lived in larger houses were thinking about downsizing or moving to a smaller place, mainly because the garden or pool was difficult to maintain, or there were too many stairs. However, the process of doing this was a daunting task, and people were unsure where to start in reducing their possessions and what to do with them.

Barrie and Helen B have lived in the family home for 40 years and are now thinking about downsizing. Barrie is trying to find a good home for his books so they are not thrown away.

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When deciding to move, several people pointed out that it was important not to leave it too late, that it gets harder to deal with selling a house and moving as you age and it was not fair to leave the task to their children. However, other people were reluctant to make any plans and said they will make the decision to move ‘later’ or when the need arises.

Lyn and Robin plan to move to a retirement village in the next 10 years. They understand if they leave it too late, moving will become more difficult.

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A retirement village was one housing option mentioned by quite a few participants, either because they found it an attractive option or because they did not want to live there. There was a perception the houses in retirement villages were too small and the demographic was too narrow. The people we spoke with who did live in a retirement village were very content there.

Elaine H feels safer living in a retirement village and enjoys the activities they have on offer.

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Dorothy loves getting the sun in the morning and is content living in her retirement village.

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People expressed a range of views about nursing homes. Some saw it as the best option as they became more frail; others saw it as giving up their independence. People who did not want to go into a nursing home associated them with poor quality of life, a place where people go to die. They were also perceived as having too many rules or that residents can be neglected. There was little differentiation between high care and low care aged accommodation and people’s perceptions were influenced by the experience of others they knew.

Dolores’ mother was in a nursing home and she hopes she never ends up in one.

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Hans would rather die than go into a nursing home, he wants to maintain his independence.

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Not everyone was opposed to going into a nursing home. Lan has told her sons that if she becomes incapable they should put her in a nursing home and not feel guilty about it. The people we spoke to who were living in a nursing home did not find it so bad – life was easier than living on their own, they felt safer should they have a fall and the staff were very good. The main complaint from nursing home residents was the loss of independence and having meal times that did not suit them.

Ron has been living in a low care nursing home for 10 years. He finds he has everything he needs and is reassured that he will be able to get assistance if he falls.

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Fred describes the nursing home policies that make him feel like he’s lost his independence.

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People made the decision to sell their property, to move to a retirement village or to a nursing home largely because they did not want to be a burden on their children. However, these decisions were rarely made independently and children were often involved in housing choices, for example, by making appointments to view nursing homes, urging them not to sell the family home or inviting their parent to live with them. When couples moved it was normal for one person to want more strongly to move than the other.

Brian X’s children want him to move to a retirement village interstate to be closer to them. Brian X feels it would be unfair not to consider their wishes.

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Even though others were involved in making decisions to move it was important that people had ownership over the choices which affect their lives. Merrilyn had to put her husband into a nursing home because he was suffering from dementia and incontinence. She describes how difficult it has been for him there.

Merrilyn’s husband is not settling into the nursing home. He keeps asking when he is coming home.

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Regardless of the type of move people were contemplating it was important that they remained close to family and friends. People sometimes relocated from overseas or interstate in their senior years to be near their children. Being in close proximity to amenities and in a community of like-minded people was also important. All three Aboriginal participants we spoke with emphasised the importance of being able to ‘age on country’. Oscar was born and raised on Elcho Island and feels that is his home, while Guymun is adamant she never wants to be transferred to Darwin if she needs higher care. Elaine M explains why it is so important for Yolngu elders to be cared for by their family and on their land.

Elaine M says that if you take old people out to the bush to spend time on the land where they were born, it gives them identity and authority and heals them.

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