What is a home? So much more than mere shelter from the elements, the concept of home encompasses all that provides us with a place in the world: it underpins our identity; our relationships with one another; our understanding of who we are and where we fit in the greater scheme of things.
Yet this fundamental notion of home as something so intrinsic to the human condition is all too often overlooked when it comes to the role of the home in modern society, and to the development of policies that support the provision of housing and the sustenance of life.
This policy brief is intended to restore the idea of home as both a psychological and social asset to our discourse on housing, rather than just a financial asset. It is specifically concerned with the role of the home as we age, positing that successful ageing is dependent on a person’s access to a home that provides security, community, safety and autonomy.
Drawing on years of practice by The Australian Centre for Social Innovation (TACSI) and Per Capita’s substantial research in the field of positive ageing, we set out to demonstrate that by recognising the role and particular importance of home as people age, we can craft public policy responses that more fully address the needs of all Australians.
This involves applying a multi-focal lens to policymaking: stepping back from the focus on home ownership as a financial asset to take better account of how people relate to the place they call home.
It requires jettisoning some long-held assumptions about the needs and preferences of older people in relation to housing and challenging the economic model that sees our ageing population as a burden.
We must be willing to experiment with new models of home ownership, including cooperative and multi-generational housing, and to rethink how we plan and develop urban and regional communities to provide the social and emotional support that people need as they age.
Finally, and most radically, we must recognise that, for growing numbers of Australians, home ownership is unlikely; sometimes even unwanted. As our retirement income system relies on the assumption that the majority of older people will own their homes outright, this demographic poses a fundamental challenge to our thinking about how we ensure all Australians enjoy a secure, dignified and positive older age.
What follows is a policy framework for a national approach to providing older Australians with homes that meet their social, emotional, environmental, and psychological needs.