Sheltered housing, sometimes referred to as sheltered accommodation or independent living schemes, are a type of social housing designed for people aged over 55.
There are many reasons people choose to live in an Independent Living Scheme, they may require extra assistance, companionship, extra security and peace of mind.
What Is Sheltered Housing?
In the UK, sheltered housing usually comes in the form of self-contained flats. These homes usually have a great selection of shared facilities including well-maintained gardens and communal lounges.
As the homes are purpose-built for the elderly or vulnerable, numerous safety and security features are usually present in addition to adaptations that make life easier, such as lifts to upper floors and level access showers.
The main difference between sheltered homes and other types of clustered housing is the systems put in place to ensure residents are safe and can easily call for help, should they need to.
Each home will be fitted with an alarm system, enabling the tenant to call for help in an emergency. In most schemes, help is provided by the scheme officer or manager (these used to be referred to as ‘wardens’ and you may still hear that term, but we don’t use it and most tenants don’t).
Who Provides Sheltered Housing?
Sheltered housing is usually provided as social housing and is administered by Local Authorities or a Housing Association.
Residents rent their home from their landlord, which will be the council or a Housing Association. Rent is covered in various ways, but in most cases is normally supported with benefits.
Sheltered housing is different from retirement villages or communities – these types of schemes are usually privately administered and are owner-occupied.
Who Is Eligible To Live In Sheltered Housing?
Eligibility will depend on the scheme but generally, sheltered housing is for people over the age of 60 with no upper limit. Some schemes also cater to those over the age of 55.
Accent Independent Living schemes cater to anyone over the age of 55 but also consider applicants from those age 45+ if they have a vulnerability.
In addition to elderly people, people with certain disabilities or other vulnerabilities are also eligible for sheltered accommodation, although this is scheme dependant and may be provided separately to elderly schemes so that residents receive a service most appropriate to their needs.
To live in sheltered housing, occupants should mostly still be independent as they are not ‘supervised’ permanently, as they would be in a care home, or similar. Sheltered housing is for people needing a secure environment and assistance only in emergencies.
For people with more substantial needs, assisted living schemes are usually more suitable as around the clock support and care can be provided, depending on needs.
In addition to meeting needs-based criteria, applicants will usually have to have an income below a certain threshold to qualify for sheltered accommodation.
Eligible people will be able to apply for sheltered homes through the organisation providing the scheme. This is usually your local council or a Housing Association.
You can check for schemes in your area by typing your postcode on the government’s website here.
Alternatively, you can search for sheltered housing with a Housing Association or by approaching your local council.
What Are The Benefits Of Independent Living?
People choose to live in sheltered homes for a variety of reasons but usually, it is because they are in some way vulnerable, either because of age or disability.
These people may have difficulties at home with stairs or managing a large home. There may also be security concerns or even just people who are very isolated.
The benefits of sheltered housing or independent living schemes as we prefer to call them are both practical and emotional.
Firstly, independent living schemes are practical in the physical sense because they are purpose-built for people who may struggle with stairs, need wider doors, or have other mobility issues.
Most schemes will also have an added layer of security in the form of a scheme’s manager or officer. These are sometimes always located on-site to ensure would-be criminals are deterred (some criminals will purposely target the elderly in their own homes) and provide aid when it is needed. Some elderly people are very aware of their vulnerability so this added layer of protection can be a comfort.
In addition to the safety and security benefits, independent living schemes offer the chance to participate in a community for vulnerable people. Living near people of a similar age can be beneficial when it comes to combating loneliness, for example.
At some schemes, there may also be organised community activities or a community centre to encourage residents to engage with their neighbours and support services.
Overall, the biggest benefit to a person living in sheltered accommodation is the sense of independence retained. For some, independence is associated with dignity and pride, and the ability to live alone in old age with minimal support is a choice many people prefer.
It is for this reason, we refer to our sheltered housing as an Independent Living Scheme.
Looking For An Independent Living Scheme?
If you or a relative are looking for Independent Living options in Middlesbrough, Bradford, Lancashire, Camberley, Peterborough and the surrounding areas, please view our sheltered housing developments here.