There are two main types of age-exclusive housing for older people: sheltered housing and extra care housing, which offers personal care services.

On this page you can find detailed information about the two types of private sheltered accommodation.

1. Sheltered housing
2. Extra care sheltered housing
3. Extra care housing for people with dementia

Sheltered housing

Sheltered housing offers self-contained flats or bungalows with the additional support of a scheme manager and a 24-hour alarm system should residents require help. There may be a range of additional services and features available, depending on which scheme you choose. Help with personal or medical care is not usually available.

The majority of sheltered housing to rent will be owned by councils and housing associations, and will therefore have their vacancies allocated based on those who are considered to be in the most urgent need. If you wish to rent sheltered housing on a private basis, you may wish to make enquiries with Elderly Accommodation Counsel, who can advise on sheltered housing schemes in your area that are for rent on a private basis.

Extra care housing

Extra care housing (also known as ‘very sheltered housing’, ‘assisted living’ or ‘close care’) is similar to sheltered housing, but there is a higher level of support and help with personal care is available to those who need it. This type of housing is therefore attractive for couples with mixed levels of care needs as it can offer independence while also having access to care and respite services.

Care staff, sometimes employed by local councils, care agencies or social landlords, can visit residents in their flats to help with getting in/out of bed, washing and dressing. They might also help with cleaning, or provide meals. Care staff are sometimes based onsite but can also be community based, and are typically available 24 hours a day.

It is common within extra care housing for all residents to have to pay a minimum contribution towards care services, regardless of whether they require any support themselves. It is therefore advisable to enquire about these charges and the typical costs for higher levels of care, should you need them in the future.

Types of extra care sheltered housing

'I heard about 'extra care' homes that had sheltered accommodation and communal areas and really well-trained carers.' Lesley's story

There are several different types of extra care scheme:

  • Rented only: all residents rent their property from the housing provider. There will be a weekly or monthly rent and usually an additional service charge. There may be charges for additional services, such as care and meals.
  • Leasehold only: all residents have bought the property from the housing provider and pay a monthly service charge. There might also be additional care charges. Check before purchasing.
  • Mixed tenure: some residents have bought the lease and some residents are renting from the housing provider. Both tenants and leaseholders are eligible for the same personal care and support services if they meet the criteria or are paying for the services.
  • Close care: retirement accommodation attached to a care home, residents buying in meals/care as needed.
  • Shared ownership: some sheltered and extra care housing developers will have a shared ownership option where tenants can part buy and part rent. Typically you can purchase between 25 and 75% of the scheme and you will pay rent based on the share of the property that you do not own.

Extra care housing developed with consideration for residents with dementia

Some extra care housing schemes have been built with special consideration given to residents with dementia. They may contain features such as:

  • the use of familiar objects and furniture to aid orientation
  • different rooms/sections of the house painted different colours instead of a clinical white throughout, to aid orientation
  • curved furniture, so residents are less likely to bump into it
  • safe outside spaces so that residents can enjoy the fresh air without getting lost or wandering too far.

However, extra care housing should not necessarily be viewed as an alternative to a care home as the complex care needs that can be associated with dementia may mean that a care home is required to provide the levels of support required to ensure the safety of your relative. 

For more information on extra care housing schemes and other accommodation options for older people with dementia, contact the Adult Social Care department of your local authority or the Elderly Accommodation Counsel (EAC) HousingCare service to find out if there are schemes in your area for people with dementia.

More information

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