Skip to content

Sheltered housing

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.

Accommodation is usually self-contained, but there are often 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.

Renting sheltered housing

Most sheltered housing for rent is provided by local councils or housing associations that will each have their own allocation policy based on need. There’s often a waiting list, so ask how long you might have to wait and what priority your application will be given.

A small amount of sheltered housing is available to rent privately. Contact Elderly Accommodation Counsel to find out more.

Buying retirement housing

Retirement housing that’s available to buy is usually built by private developers. Make sure you only buy from a builder who is registered with an accredited body, such as the National House-Building Council.

Once all the properties have been sold, the scheme is usually run by a separate management group who employ the scheme manager and organise maintenance and other services. Make sure the managers are members of recognised trade body such as the Association of Retirement Housing Managers.

Before buying any retirement housing make sure you find out about running costs, such as service charge, ground rent, Council Tax and utility bills.


This type of sheltered housing is 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.

Abbeyfield societies 

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.

Read our free Housing options guide for more information about sheltered housing.

If you need more help with your sheltered housing options, speak to us at your local Age UK

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 169 2081

This page was last updated:

Was this helpful?