Housing for older people

Modern independent living schemes offer self contained accommodation, generally for people over the age of 55 or 60. Most residents lead full and active lives but welcome the additional security offered by this type of housing. Several landlords offering homes through Bedfordshire Homefinder can offer this type of housing.

Is an independent living scheme right for me?

People choose independent living schemes (sometimes referred to as 'sheltered' schemes) for many different reasons:>

  • some value the peace of mind and reassurance of a safe environment with support services available if they need them
  • others welcome the friendships that close neighbours can offer and the opportunities to get involved in a range of activities with people of a similar age

Some older people find it expensive and difficult to maintain a family home and choose to move to a smaller more manageable home. As people get older, mobility needs can change – independent living schemes can offer step-free access and adaptations such as walk-in showers.

What types of accommodation are available for older people?

Independent living schemes can include:

  • flats with a visiting independent living support service
  • extra care schemes – for people who need on site support service
  • groups of bungalows in the wider community, again where visiting support can be provided if needed

Blocks of flats offer secure homes, generally with door entry systems. Alarm systems, such as Telecare or Life 24, are also available, guaranteeing peace of mind for residents and their families. Most schemes also offer:

  • a communal laundry
  • guest rooms for friends or family for overnight visiting
  • social areas
  • communal gardens
  • optional social and group activities

I’m 60 years young and I don’t feel I need support!

Support services are flexible and are tailored to the needs of each resident, so you won’t have to accept support you don’t need or want! Having said that, due to the nature of the schemes, there's generally an additional support charge included in the rent which you would be liable for even if you didn’t require the support on offer.

If your circumstances change, staff are on hand to help whether it’s filling in a benefit claim form or liaising with social services to get you extra help while you recover from an illness or injury.

Can I bring my pet if I move to independent living?

Each scheme differs but dogs and cats are not usually allowed in flats - although there may be exceptions for guide dogs or hearing dogs. You should speak to the landlord of the scheme you're interested in to find out about their pet policy.

I’m downsizing - can I keep my furniture?

All properties are offered unfurnished so you'll need to provide your own furniture, but if you are moving from a three-bedroom family home to a one-bed flat you'll probably need to give some of your furniture to family, friends or charity. Ask your new landlord for advice if you can offer unwanted furniture to another household who may be starting out with very little.

How much will it cost?

Charges will vary according to the scheme and the landlord but in general the charges are made up of the following elements:

  • rent: this is the charge for the property itself. If you are receiving housing benefit the rent element, in full or part depending on your other income, will be payable
  • service charge: this charge if for the maintenance of the property and services in the communal areas, such as cleaning, lift maintenance and garden maintenance - this charge is also eligible for Housing Benefit if you are receiving it
  • support charge: this charge covers the emergency alarm service and visits from independent living staff - you'll probably have to pay the basic support charge even if you feel you don’t need the support services at present. This charge is not eligible for Housing Benefit but will have to be met from your other income such as wages or pension
  • heating and hot water: some schemes have communal heating and hot water - the cost is divided between the number of flats in the scheme and charged to each resident. This element is not eligible for Housing Benefit. In schemes which don’t have communal heating or hot water you'll have to choose an energy supplier and pay your bills directly to them.

Choosing a scheme

There are a few things to consider when choosing a scheme.

  • Is it far away from your family and friends?
  • Will they be able to visit you easily?
  • If you like to do your own shopping and cooking, are there local shops you can get to easily? Or a transport service you could use to go further afield
  • If you need on-site services, what is on offer? Some schemes can provide visiting services like hairdressing or chiropody
  • If possible, arrange to visit a scheme and talk to the staff about the services provided before you bid for any vacant homes

How do I apply for an independent living scheme?

You'll normally have to apply to the local authority to join the housing register. Visit Central Beds or Luton for information on how to apply. If you're eligible you will be given a priority on the housing register and information on how to bid for available properties through Bedfordshire Homefinder - see leaflet: how to bid.

If you have difficulty with bidding you can ask a family member or friend to bid for you, or ask us to place bids for you automatically in the areas you are interested in.

If you need extra care because you're frail or have additional care needs, you'll also need to have an assessment by your local authority social services team to make sure the scheme is suitable for your needs.

For more information about Bedfordshire Homefinder, applying for housing and the bidding process go to choice based lettings.

Important information about brand new properties

Sometimes brand new schemes are built specifically for older people, but there are a few things that you should consider if you decide to bid on a brand new property.

  • Sometimes there are delays in the property being ready, which may be a problem if you need to move quickly
  • Homes in these schemes are designed with accessibility in mind, but if you have a disability and need more specific adaptations in a new home, remember that there may be restrictions on any adaptations that can be carried out in the first year or two

For more information on this, see leaflet: bidding on brand new properties.