Sheltered housing is a good option for older people who enjoy independent living but want the reassurance of additional support.

1. If your relative’s home no longer suits their needs

It might be that their current property is simply too big for them now, or that they are having trouble keeping up with maintenance and repairs. Sheltered housing can offer a smaller and easier-to-manage alternative. 

2. If your relative has reduced mobility

Sheltered housing properties are built with older people in mind, and are usually compact and easy to get around. Most have been built (or adapted) to suit people with reduced mobility or disabilities. Features such as hand rails in the bathroom, and wider corridors and lifts, can make life easier.

If accessibility is the main issue, though, it may be possible for your relative to adapt the home they currently live in. For more information, see Improving safety in and out of the home.

3. If your relative is feeling lonely

'They decided to look at sheltered housing because then they could live independently but have some backup.' Anne's story

With opportunities to socialise with other residents of a similar age, someone who is feeling lonely in their own home may find lots of different ways to meet with like-minded people. For further reading, see our guide on Tackling loneliness.

4. If your relative no longer feels safe living alone

Sheltered housing can feel more secure than living alone. It can be reassuring to know that other people are around – to talk to, give advice or help with problems. Scheme managers can generally be contacted during the day, and a limited number of sheltered housing schemes may have a live-in scheme manager or warden. There are also lots of opportunities to socialise with other people of a similar age. Many sheltered housing schemes have a community feel, with shared spaces and organised activities for residents to take part in if they want.

Flats will have locks on individual front doors, and buildings are more likely to have secure door entry systems or even intruder alarms. 

Sheltered housing properties also have alarm systems, giving residents access to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If an alarm is activated, calls go through to the scheme manager (if on duty) or a 24-hour call monitoring centre, which will likely alert a nominated relative/friend or the emergency services.

If your relative simply wants the reassurance of a 24/7 alarm system, it is possible to fit these in their current home. SeeAssistive technologies for more information about alarm systems.

5. If your relative needs personal care

Sheltered housing is most suitable for older people who are relatively fit and healthy, as personal or medical care is not usually provided. However, another form of housing for older people, known as extra care housing, will provide personal care, such as washing and dressing. 

Alternatively, people may be able to arrange for a home care agency to deliver care within their sheltered housing property. Some sheltered housing will have a condition requiring residents to live independently and therefore we suggest checking the terms of the tenancy to see whether care services can be brought into your home.

More information

Page last reviewed: July 2016
Next review due: February 2018