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Research Summary

This study analyses current geographic mobility and downsizing behaviours among Australians aged over 55, and considers the barriers to, and consequences of downsizing. Retired Australians tend to retain high levels of housing wealth (rising to 49% of assets for homeowners aged 75+) and most choose not to downsize, either by moving to a smaller dwelling or a less-expensive home. 

Research outcomes

The Australian population is ageing, and this presents both challenges and opportunities for Australian policy-makers. The key challenge is that there are likely to be increasing fiscal demands from an older demographic for services such as long-term care and programs such as the Age Pension (AP). On the other hand, there are opportunities to meet this challenge. The opportunities are made available via the high rates of home ownership and related high levels of housing wealth of older Australians.

This accumulated wealth provides governments and individuals with the means to maintain appropriate levels of consumption throughout retirement, thus minimising reliance on government support. By implementing appropriate policy development, governments can assist older Australians to make geographic mobility and downsizing decisions that ensure they are housed appropriately, according to their needs and circumstances, as they age.

This study analyses current geographic mobility and downsizing behaviours among Australians aged over 55.

Key findings include:

  • Few Australians aged over 55 years move homes on an annual basis. Geographic mobility declines with age and is higher among renters—varying from 3 per cent per annum among owner-occupiers aged 75 years and over, to around 18 per cent among renters aged 55–64 years.
  • An analysis of barriers to geographic mobility identified by a set of older Australians highlights that the majority of individuals report either health or affordability as the primary barrier to moving.
  • Downsizing behaviour is generally correlated with specific life events, such as change in partnership status, adult children leaving the parental home, or change in health status.
  • Evidence suggests that the AP assets test (but not the AP income test or age eligibility rules) discourages downsizing.
  • Among older Australians, both geographic mobility and downsizing are associated with an increase in financial and life satisfaction, but a decrease in housing and neighbourhood satisfaction.
  • Negative impacts of moving on wellbeing, as measured by satisfaction, appear to moderate over time, potentially reflecting individuals’ adaptation to their new living arrangements.

Publication Details
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AHURI Final Report No. 321
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