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Sheltered housing is a term covering a wide range of rented housing for older and/or disabled or other vulnerable people. Most commonly it refers to grouped housing such as a block or "scheme" of flats or bungalows with a scheme manager or "officer"; traditionally the manager has lived on-site although this is not always the case these days. (Managers/officers used to be called "wardens" but this term is now felt to be out of date.)

Sheltered housing schemes are generally owned, run and maintained by a housing trust, usually a not-for-profit organisation which works closely with and is part-funded by the local authority.

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Accommodation

Sheltered housing accommodation is self-contained and easy to manage, ranging from a simple bedsit to a large flat or small house. Such schemes are distinct from a nursing home or care home in that the tenants are usually able to look after themselves, are active and are afforded a degree of independence; equally, sheltered housing differs from retirement housing which is generally leasehold (owner-occupied).

Many schemes have communal areas such as a lounge and/or garden where tenants can socialise. Many sheltered housing schemes are open only to people aged 60 or over although some accept people from the age of 55. This age restriction however is changing as the deciding factors in offering potential residents accommodation is being widened as a means to accept that being vulnerable and in need of support is not always age related. There is generally no upper age limit, the deciding factor instead being whether the person is independent enough to look after themselves or if they need care. A number of housing associations are now considering the rising need for this type of accommodation and are adding suitable accommodation in plans for their new social housing developments. Many of these developments are entitled to apply for funding from local governments to provide suitable housing for the more vulnerable members of the community.

Other types

Extra care sheltered housing (aka "very sheltered" or "assisted living") schemes provide a greater level of access and mobility for frail older people, with a domiciliary care service and personal care element being available within the scheme alongside the manager. In addition meals are usually provided and as they are eaten in the communal dining room it provides an opportunity for social interaction and combats loneliness.

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