I’m not sure that it’s the Government’s role to tell citizens what kind of homes they choose to live in, but in any case there are to be strong incentives to older people to make it easier to “downsize” from empty-nest family homes. A White Paper will explore ways in which this might be achieved.

I have encountered those of my generation who have larger homes from which offspring have now grown and flown; and while they may talk of “rattling around” in an emptier house, they don’t necessarily want to quit their own family home.

Any parish priest will be aware of older people – often widows, sometimes widowers – who are now living alone in a family home, but would be reluctant to move. For psychological and community reasons, it’s often best for older people to stay in their own homes for as long as they are able to do so.

But there is another choice which some senior citizens are now making: that is, to put their empty bedrooms to use by taking in lodgers.

It doesn’t suit everyone to have lodgers, and it doesn’t suit everyone to be a lodger. It wouldn’t go any way to meet the housing crisis for families who need homes. But lodgers can be a cheerful and constructive solution for some older people, and it can be a useful option for younger single people needing accommodation, especially in the London area, where flats or even bedsits are so horribly expensive.

Back in the 1950s – when my husband first came to London – almost all young single people went into “digs” – usually a former family home where the bedrooms were used by lodgers. His “digs” were in Islington, where the landlady was an eccentric Trotskyist, and the other tenants were a hilarious bunch of singletons. It was cheap, it was lively and it was an exercise in community living. Far better than twentysomethings living alone in isolated bedsits; and for the hosts it filled an empty house, and provided revenue too.

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