6 August 2019

People who decide to downsize generally find the move to be stressful but are ultimately happy with the decision they have made, a new Australian report has found.

In early August 2019, the ARC Centre for Excellence in Population Ageing Research published a research paper about the psychology of downsizing.

The paper was based on a survey of 352 adults aged 55 years and above, who had downsized in the previous five years.

The paper seeks to examine how downsizing relates to traditional theories about the psychology of older people, including the theory that seniors are less likely to express regret about their actions, compared to younger people.

The paper found that only 17.6 per cent of participants indicated regret about downsizing, but in line with the psychological theory above it was younger seniors who were more likely to express regret about the move.

However, the paper did find that downsizing was a stressful process, with most people reporting a medium to high level of stress. It also noted that this stress was transient and did not generally alter a person’s later positive perspective on downsizing.

In short, it concluded: “Whilst most people do not express regret with the move, it can be a stressful process.”

The paper also stated: “The issue of downsizing is often considered from a practical, economic or financial perspective but in doing so we forget that ‘home is where the heart is’.”

“While some people may address perceived needs (i.e. yard is too big) by moving, they may take other problems with them (i.e. loneliness) or create new ones through the stress of moving.

“Recognising and validating people’s response to the move can be helpful so that people know that this is a normal reaction and may be relatively transient.”

The above paper clearly outlines the need for greater support for people who downsize, so they can understand the likely potential stress involved and can better prepare for the move. 

“Understanding the post-downsizing experience of others can help better prepare people before they move to anticipate responses and possibly contribute to better retirement adjustment,” the paper states. 

Downsizing.com.au is proposing to shortly release a Downsizing Guide which should help in this regard. Subscribe to our newsletters so you will be first in line to get a copy of this guide. 

The paper also found that the top five triggers for downsizing included:

  • House was too big
  • To be closer to family
  • Lifestyle preferences
  • Yard too hard to manage; and
  • Alleviation of financial strain. 

The Productivity Commission, in 2015, found that about one in five older Australians have sold their property and purchased a less expensive home since turning 50, and about 5 per cent have sold and moved to renting. 

Of the older home owners that have not moved yet, the Commission found that about 15 per cent had strong intentions to do so at some point in the future.

By Mark Skelsey, News Editor at Downsizing.com.au - email Mark at [email protected]