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The ‘downsizing’ discourse is presented as a ‘win-win’ situation which benefits older people and the rest of society. However, a survey and interviews conducted with over 55 s in England reveals more nuanced patterns of residential moves, behaviours and aspirations than suggested by ‘downsizing’. Only a minority of older households choose to downsize. This paper looks into this mismatch between observed housing choices and the construction of downsizing as a policy goal. It suggests that theoretically speaking, the very notion of downsizing is problematic and difficult to define and is an over-simplistic concept which in reality applies to a heterogeneous group of people.

Burgess, G. & Quinio, V. (2020) Unpicking the downsizing discourse: understanding the housing moves made by older people in England, Housing Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2020.1754346

The article can be found online at


Gemma Burgess

Valentine Quinio

Publication Date

April 2020