A home for life? Understanding the housing aspirations of older homeowners

PhD student Helen looks at camera against river backdrop
Helen Brown
PhD student
Housing and real estate; Urban inequalities and social justice
Helen is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield. Her research aims to understand attitudes and perceptions amongst older people of housing and housing processes in an era of rising demand.

The focus of my research project is to better understand the housing aspirations of older homeowners. More specifically my PhD aims are:

  • to understand in-depth the housing aspirations of older homeowners
  • to understand how older homeowners perceive wider structural factors as shaping their housing aspirations
  • to determine if older homeowners are able to realise their housing aspirations in a contemporary housing system
  • to identify how policymakers might construct local policy and management responses which reflect the aspirations of older homeowners

Working closely with our non-academic partners at Sheffield City Council, I am implementing a qualitative research methodology to understand why older people make the housing choices they do. I have undertaken a series of in-depth interviews with older homeowners, using photo elicitation techniques to gain greater insights into the meaning of home and how this may inform future housing decisions. Furthermore, I will be drawing upon an occupational lens to examine the extent to which what people do in their homes and neighbourhoods informs their housing aspirations.

Through these contemporary approaches I am hopeful the research project will deliver real world impact. Thereby adding to existing understanding of housing aspirations in later life to inform policymakers, academics and practitioners working in the delivery of housing for older people to develop a housing offer acceptable to all. As a result, informing a range of policy and management responses in better planning and management of housing and related services.

My PhD is funded by the ESRC through a White Rose Doctoral Training Partnership Collaborative Award.

Following my first degree in business I enjoyed a successful career in sales and marketing. In 2005, I embarked upon a career change, studying Occupational Therapy at Sheffield Hallam University, graduating with a BSc (Hons) first class.

Subsequently I worked at Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council with responsibility for managing and delivering Occupational Therapy services for customers in need of housing-related support. I gained considerable experience of working with people from all age groups who have complex housing and social needs. After seven years I was promoted into a strategic role with a service development remit to deliver an innovative therapy resource across adult care, specifically reablement and single point of access.

In 2017 I completed MSc Professional Health and Care Studies at York St John’s University, gaining a distinction. I enjoyed the research element and decided to return to academia in October 2017 to undertake a 1 + 3 PhD at the University of Sheffield. I completed MA Social Research in 2018 and continued onto the PhD.

I am also FHEA accredited and teach at the University of Derby on their BSc and MSc Occupational Therapy programmes.