Skip to content
Please donate

Assisted living and extra-care housing

Assisted living (also known as extra-care housing) is a type of ‘housing with care’ which means you can live independently while being assisted with tasks such as washing, dressing, going to the toilet or taking medication.

What is assisted living?

In assissted living housing (also known as extra-care housing), residents live in a self-contained flat, with their own front door, but staff are usually available up to 24 hours per day to provide personal care and support services. These are tailored to the resident and can include help with washing, dressing, going to the toilet and taking medication. Domestic help, such as shopping and laundry, and meals may also be provided.

Common features of assisted living accommodation include:

  • help from a scheme manager (warden) or a team of support staff 
  • 24-hour emergency help through an alarm system
  • social activities arranged for the community
  • a minimum age for residents, usually 55 or 60
  • self-contained flats
  • communal lounges allowing you to socialise as and when you feel like it
  • Some extra-care housing is available to buy or rent privately and some is available from the local council following a care needs assessment, but it isn’t available in every area.

What's the difference between assisted living and sheltered housing?

Assisted living offers more support than sheltered housing but more independence than a care home. Unlike sheltered housing, assisted living housing is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). They inspect the facilities and provide ratings.

Find out more about sheltered housing

How much does assisted living cost?

The cost of assisted living varies depending on whether you rent or buy your accommodation, the scheme you choose, the level of care you need, and where you want to live.

The costs to consider include:

  • rent, if you're renting a property
  • ground rent, if you've bought a property on a leasehold basis
  • charges for the care and assistance provided
  • a regular ‘service charge’ to cover the management and upkeep of the scheme.

On top of this, you have to pay council tax, water rates and energy bills. Some charges for water and fuel may be part of your service charge if they are for communal areas. This includes water to a communal laundry or fuel bills for lighting and heating the corridors or a communal lounge.

It's important to be clear about all the charges you will have to pay, including any one-off fees such as administration or exit fees, before you make a commitment. Check how and when any regular charges, such as the service charge or the charges for care and support, can be increased.

What financial support is available to pay for assisted living?

You may be able to get help with your rent and/or service charges through Housing Benefit (if you are renting) or Pension Credit (if you own your home). Help with Council Tax and the cost of care and support may be available through the local council.

If you're thinking about renting or buying directly from a housing association or private provider, ask your local council to assess your needs. If your needs are considered ‘eligible,’ the council will carry out a financial assessment and may cover some, or all, of your care costs.

Find out more about the care needs assessment

What should I consider before moving to assisted living housing?

There are a few things you should consider before moving to assisted living accommodation, not only to make sure it's the right option for you, but also to make sure the specific site will meet your requirements.

  • What are the communal facilities like?
  • Do you like the design and does the layout meet your needs?
  • Is the property the right size?
  • What's the social life like?
  • Is there a scheme manager or warden service?
  • Do they have a scheme on disability-related adaptations?
  • Is the property noisy?
  • Is there an emergency call system?
  • Do you like the location?
  • Does the property have local shops and services near by?
  • Is the propert well connected to public transport?
  • Does the property allow pets?

I'm thinking about renting assisted living housing

Renting instead of buying assisted living housing can be a good option for some people as it can be easier to move if your needs change and your landlord is responsible for certain repairs to your home.

You might be thinking about renting for the first time to free up equity in your current home. If so, think carefully about whether this money is enough to pay for your ongoing rental costs and other needs for a long period of time. Get advice about the impact of releasing capital on your entitlement to benefits and/or local council-funded social care services.

Renting through the council

Placements in local council schemes are usually given out after a social services care needs assessment. You might need to meet standard eligibility criteria, such as being over a certain age and needing a set number of hours of care a week. Speak to your local council's social services department if you're interested.

Contact your local council

Get in touch with your local council's adult social services department

Renting privately

If you're considering renting privately, make sure you understand the terms of your tenancy and how easily you can be evicted. Most private tenancies provide very little security of tenure, although landlords may offer tenancies on more secure terms.

I'm thinking about buying assisted living housing

Before buying, make sure you understand exactly what services are provided, how much they cost, and how you are going to cover these costs before making a commitment. Ask for a full breakdown of charges, including optional services and any ‘one-off’ fees.

Most assisted living housing is sold on a leasehold basis. There may be restrictions in the lease on what happens if you want to sell the property or leave it to a relative in your will. Make sure you check these restrictions and other lease terms and conditions before you buy.

You may need to pay an ‘exit’ or ‘transfer’ fee if you sell the property or if there is a change of who lives there, for example, if a carer comes to live with you. Make sure you ask about any exit fees before you decide to buy.

How do I find assisted living housing?

Your local council should be able to tell you if there are local assisted living facilities, or you can visit the Elderly Accommodation Counsel directory.

Find assisted living housing on the Elderly Accommodation Counsel website

Assisted living housing is inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) who provide each facility with a quality rating. You can browse inspection reports and ratings on the CQC website to find good quality local developments, before contacting them to see if they have any properties on the market.

Visit the CQC website

Phone icon We're here to help

We offer support through our free advice line on 0800 678 1602. Lines are open 8am-7pm, 365 days a year. We also have specialist advisers at over 120 local Age UKs.

Share this page

Last updated: Jun 10 2024

Become part of our story

Sign up today

Back to top