Lancaster University

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Older people recruited as researchers on Housing Decisions in Old Age study

10/29/2001 15:30:23

New research into how people make housing decisions in old age is being carried out using older people as interviewers.

As part of a national project funded with 200k from the Community Fund, researchers in the department of Applied Social Science designed a course with the Department of Continuing Education to teach research methods to older people. The course was run in Lancaster and then repeated in London.

The students who have completed the course - all aged over 60 - are now interviewing other older people about the decisions that they have made, or may have to make, regarding where they live.

The course itself taught students how to conduct interviews and the theoretical issues underpinning this type of research. They were then paid for the fieldwork interviews that they did.

It was felt that the older people who take part in the interviews would find it easier to discuss their housing decisions with people who are nearer their own age group, who may also be thinking about their own housing situation.

The Lancaster students were asked to evaluate the course and reported that they found it interesting and that it gave them a sense of doing something useful for society.

Professor Roger Clough from Applied Social Science and researchers Dr Mary Leamy and Dr Vince Miller are also working closely with advisory panels of older people in Newcastle, Lancaster, Leicester, Weston-super-Mare and London to make sure that the questions will address the real concerns of older people.

It is likely that the panels will continue after the research has finished becoming a pressure group working on behalf of older people.

A range of options are available to older people, such as; choosing to stay in their own homes, moving to live with or near their families, or moving into specialist retirement housing like sheltered housing, or residential homes. Making the decision to move is a crucial one.

Professor Clough explained: 'The main uncertainty older people have is about their future health. How they manage that uncertainty is very important.

' If you get ill, or your partner gets ill, the house that you have been living in during your 50s and 60s may not be suitable for your needs. It may have stairs or be difficult to get to without a car for instance. Perhaps it is not suitable if you have to use a wheelchair suddenly.

'Many older people move into small private flats in preparation for a potential problem, but even more have to make the decision in a crisis if they get ill.

'It is then that the decision may be taken away from them either by a doctor or a social worker, but most likely by adult children, causing the older people anger and frustration at no longer being in control over their own


The research findings will be used to stimulate a wider debate amongst interested parties such as housing and care providers and government policy makers on housing for older people. Counsel and Care, a national older people's charity, is collaborating with the university on this project.