Sheltered Accommodation

“What is sheltered accommodation?”

There is a lot of misconception about what is meant by sheltered accommodation. When sheltered accommodation is mentioned people usually think it’s some sort of nursing home for the elderly. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sheltered accommodation can spell a new kind of freedom for retired people who find it difficult or time-consuming to maintain a house and garden properly. It usually comprises a flat which may be rented or owned by the occupant(s). The occupant is responsible only for the internal decoration; maintenance of the buildings and gardens is taken care of by a service charge.

There are many types of sheltered housing available today. Here I am talking about schemes where the accommodation is contained within a purpose-built building block.

“Security”

As well as this security is offered. There is often a security system in operation which keeps intruders out. Although selected personnel such as the postman, the milkman and keyholders (family) can gain admittance, others have to ask the flatholder to let them in. This is done by an intercom system and an electronic lock. This means no hassle from door to door salesmen.

“Maintenance”

All maintenance is done by the book. Gas boilers and smoke alarms are tested at prescribed intervals. Water leaks, fuses etc. are repaired on demand at no cost to the residents. (for rented accommodation at least).

“Charges”

As well as the rent and service charge residents are responsible for rates, electricity, gas and ‘phone bills, although for residents on low income these may be met in part by the local council or Government.

“Management”

The day to day running of the establishment is the responsibilty of the Warden or Manager. Sometimes the Manager has a flat in the building, at other times it may be administrated by external managers. Overall, however, there is a Lifeline call service that operates 24 hours a day on every day throughout the year. The service can be alerted by pulls which hang down nearly to floor level in each flat in case somebody has fallen. There are also, for frail residents, devices which hang around the neck which fulfil the same purpose. The service will also help with other problems such as failure of equipment.

“Who can benefit?”

Sheltered accommodation caters for couples and single people alike. It is of the greatest benefit to older people on their own as the system acts as a safety net, giving elderly people that bit of support and confidence. It is not suitable for anyone who needs nursing care; residents must be able to function on their own, although they may need a little help, for example, if they’ve had a stroke.

“Checklist”

If you are considering sheltered accommodation, you should consider, apart from the obvious suitability of the flat in terms of size, location etc. , the following points.

  • Is there a resident Manager?
  • Does the Manager live on the premises?
  • Is the Manager married/ have family? In my experience married Managers do better for residents.
  • Is there a flourishing social side?
  • Is the scheme recognised and supported by the local council?
  • What provision is there for telephone and TV connections.
  • Does a cheaper rate for TV apply?
  • What other benefits are there; e.g. communal kitchen equipment, clothes washing and drying facilities, lift, guest room.
  • It’s best to get a full rundown on life at your proposed residence before signing.

Have a good look round, talk to the Manager and other residents if possible. Some can cater for people who have to use wheelchairs on a regular basis but not all.

“Final Comments”

Living in sheltered accommodation will not suit everybody. Flats are usually quite small and storage space is scarce. If you don’t mind this there are many positive aspects.

If you are interested in finding out more about Sheltered Housing you could contact your local Council or your local Age UK. They will know which schemes operate locally; or if you want to move nearer your family in another part of the country ask them to find out for you. Some private schemes run with cooperation from the local council; others retain their independence. Most are non-profit making.

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“Footnote”

Unfortunately, since I wrote this things have changed. I went into rented sheltered accomodation in the year 2000. At that time My wife and I were interviewed to assess whether we were suitable tenants. The landlord is a social housing association. We were then 75 years of age; the qualifying age was 70 minimum. There was a live-in married warden and family. There was an excellent social scene and residents met several times a week for coffee mornings, bingo, talks and entertainers.

Since that time things have gone steadily downhill

1) A warden is available only from Monday to Friday for part of each day. This is expected to change next month, March 2015, when somebody will attend only to deal with routine tasks such as testing the fire alarm.

2) The qualifying age has been reduced to 60 years, soon to be 55yrs and as older residents die off, new, younger, residents have taken over who aren’t interested in social activities. Some are even working full-time.

3) Choosing residents has been taken over by the local council and the council housing list. Because of the housing shortage, younger residents are prepared to pay for services they don’t need just to get accommodation. Some are young grannies who look after grandchildren.

In my opinion, sheltered housing should be reserved for vulnerable people who need a caring and social environment. In my neighbourhood I have several elderly friends who are struggling to survive in a private or council flat with only a pull cord and a visit once a week to see whether they are still alive. 

The type of building I live in, with a large and well-appointed lounge and kitchen, would surely be ideal for groups such as single parents, also.