Supported & sheltered housing
You may feel that you have reached a time when you no longer want to stay in your current accommodation. Perhaps you are struggling to get around the place, are no longer able to do everything for yourself, or are feeling a bit isolated and lonely. At the same time you may not want to give up your independence and privacy, and don't need as much assistance as is offered in a care home or extra care housing. If this is the case, sheltered or supported housing might be the solution for you.
Sheltered and supported housing schemes (sometimes known as retirement housing) are properties for rent aimed at people over 60 years of age, although some schemes are available for over 55s. There is no upper age limit on who can live there. Tenants are generally able to do most things for themselves. They are often still quite active, want to be as independent as possible and come and go as they please. If a tenant does need some assistance with day to day tasks then they can arrange this as they would in any other accommodation.
Sheltered and supported housing properties are usually self-contained, purpose-built flats, houses or bungalows with their own front doors, kitchens and bathrooms. They are usually designed to be easily accessible for people with wheelchairs or other mobility issues. Most schemes will have flats for couples and flats for individuals. There's often also a communal area where residents can socialise.
In sheltered accommodation there is usually a property manager or scheme manager who lives on site. They will visit or call residents from time to time to make sure that they are well and comfortable, will address any concerns which they may have, and can put them in touch with additional support when required. Residents will also be provided with an alarm system so that they can call for help in an emergency.
In supported accommodation there is not usually a manager living on site, but a locally-based team will regularly call on and check residents to make sure that they are okay. In some areas the council will arrange for this type of checking service to take place in a person's own home so that they don't have to move to specialist supported housing. As with sheltered accommodation residents will be provided with an alarm system to call for help in an emergency.
Paying for sheltered and supported accommodation
If you move to a specialist sheltered or supported accommodation scheme you will have to pay rent on your flat, and sometimes an additional service charge which covers the services of the scheme manager, and general maintenance. If you are eligible for housing benefit you will be able to claim this towards the cost of your rent.
How to apply for sheltered and supported accommodation
If you are are eligible for social care support you may be able to access extra care housing. If you are not eligible for social care support you can find out about supported housing, and how to apply, in Sutton's directory of sheltered housing.
Private supported and sheltered housing
There are also a number of private providers of supported and sheltered accommodation. These properties are usually purchased rather than rented.
Housingcare.org has a searchable directory of sheltered housing (and other types) providers.
Hanover Housing Association has affordable rental properties for the over 55s.
You will find that many high street estate agents will also advertise supported and sheltered accommodation.
Other information and advice
Age UK provide independent advice on accessing sheltered housing schemes.
NHS Choices has advice and information for people considering a move to sheltered accommodation, either for themselves or for a relative.