Sheltered housing

woman in her home

If you want to live independently but in a smaller, easier-to-manage home, with support, then sheltered housing (also called retirement housing) might appeal to you.

What is sheltered housing?

There are many different types of sheltered housing schemes. Some will have a scheme manager (a warden) who lives onsite or offsite, and all should provide 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system.

Each scheme usually has between 20 and 40 self-contained flats or bungalows, but there will often be communal areas, such as the lounge, laundry room and garden. Many schemes run social events for residents.

If you need more support, extra-care sheltered housing may be available. This allows you more independence than living in a care home, as you would still live in a self-contained flat but would have your meals provided and may also receive personal care.

What are my options?

You can rent or buy sheltered housing. Rented sheltered housing is usually provided by local councils or housing associations that will each have their own allocation policy based on need. See the factsheet opens link in new window Council and housing association housing (PDF 188 KB) for more information.

Almshouses are a type of sheltered housing run by charitable trusts, mainly for older people. Each charity has a policy on who it will assist, for example residents who live in a particular geographical area, or workers who have retired from a particular trade.

As almshouse residents are beneficiaries of a charity, they don't have the same rights as tenants.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to live in a family-style household, you could find out if there are any local Abbeyfield societies. These are voluntary organisations that run supported sheltered housing for 8–12 residents.

There are also some private providers of sheltered rented housing. Contact the Elderly Accommodation Counsel for more information.

Further information advice

To find out more, download the following factsheets:

opens link in new window Retirement (sheltered) housing (PDF 164 KB)

opens link in new window Tenants' rights: security of tenure (PDF 161 KB)

opens link in new window Buying retirement housing (PDF 191 KB)

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Useful information to download

  • Information guide about the different types of housing options available.

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Useful websites

  • Website of The Almshouse Association, which offers support and guidance to the individual almshouse charities that provide accommodation for vulnerable, and mostly older, people.
    Website of Abbeyfield, a not-for-profit organisation offering sheltered housing and care homes for older people.
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