Assisted living Everything you need to know

Assisted living: Everything you need to know

4 min read |

Assisted living facilities are an alternative to traditional elderly care like care homes or homecare.

For older people with fewer care needs they offer a great opportunity to live and age well in a community setting.

This article will cover everything you need to know about assisted living in retirement and older age.

Here’s a summary of what we’ll cover in this article:

  • Assisted living is an alternative to traditional elderly care that takes place in care homes and in your own home.
  • It is suitable for older people who want to maintain some independence by living alone, but could benefit from access to care support. 
  • Residents live in a self-contained property with access to care workers and community events and facilities. 
  • Assisted living may be marketed as sheltered housing with extra-care or a retirement village.
What is assisted living

What is assisted living?

Assisted living or extra-care housing is an alternative to traditional care where you live independently within a housing facility or complex. 

Each resident, or couple, has their own self-contained flat, bungalow or house, yet benefits from living in a community setting.

The community is secure and safe, with access limited to staff and residents, which is great if you’re worried about security. 

Plus, trained care staff are on hand 24/7 to support any care needs that you have.

do relatives pay care home fees

How is assisted living different from a care home?

Assisted living has a number of similarities to living in a care home.

The difference is that you have your own self-contained property, which includes kitchen and utility facilities and maybe even outdoor space. 

Whereas a care home suite consists of a bedroom and ensuite bathroom only. 

Care home costs are also different from those associated with assisted living, so make sure you understand the charges before you commit.

Confused about care funding?

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How is it managed?

Living in an assisted living facility or retirement complex provides care, community and security for older people. 

This can provide peace of mind to elderly residents or their families – especially if they are living alone. 

They have access to care staff to support them with care needs, as well as managers who oversee the entire complex. 

Some facilities may also have wardens or dedicated staff for extra security.

What’s included with assisted living care?

In an assisted living facility you have access to the same home care assistance as you would while receiving care in another setting.

The difference is that you have your own space plus a community of peers – it’s the best of both worlds!


The care team can support you with tasks such as personal care or home help, much like you would receive during home care visits

This could include washing and dressing or help with medication and exercise. 

Alternatively, carers are on hand to help you get groceries and do household chores like cleaning and laundry.

assisted living community exercise


Even though you have your own flat, you’ll be living within a community of other people of similar age.

This fosters chances to meet people, make friends and build an amazing support network for your later years. 

Many facilities have communal areas such as lounges and gardens where residents can meet each other and relax. 

This could also include access to events such as talks or exercise and skills classes for residents to enjoy.

assisted living care staff

Support team

At every facility there will be a support and management team who are responsible for the happiness of residents. 

They make sure the facility and flats have everything they need and keep up to date with safety measures and care standards. 

This is essential as assisted living facilities are regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). 

If you’re thinking, ‘what is the CQC?’, you can find more info on our care advice pages.

Who is assisted living suitable for?

Assisted living is generally suitable for anyone over 60 who requires support with care needs. 

Though they may have care needs, they wish to live independently knowing help is on hand if it’s needed. 

Assisted living is not however suitable for people with complex or nursing care needs or those younger than average retirement age.

assisted living facility costs

How much does assisted living cost?

The cost of care in an assisted living facility is dependent on a number of factors. 

Due to each service provider having different specifications, it’s not possible to say how much assisted living costs. 

But generally speaking, fewer services are provided than in residential care homes, which makes them a cheaper alternative. 

However, there are service changes and other costs that must be taken into account.

Care charges

You will have to pay for the care and assistance you require and use as part of your package. 

This is dependent on what care needs you have, how the team supports you and any extra services you use.

Essentially, the more care needs you have, the more expensive it is.

Service charge

The service charge you pay for assisted living covers payments for management and upkeep of the service. 

This ensures that the management team is able to provide you with the facilities, equipment and care staff that you need. 

Confused about care funding?

Free Care Funding Guide Download


As you have your own apartment within the facility, you will have to pay utility bills such as water, electricity and council tax. 

Part of these charges may relate to water and fuel used in communal areas such as corridors and lounges. 


As with any administrative process, there may be fees associated with moving into or out of your chosen assisted living home. 

It is essential that you understand the fees that you or your loved ones will have to pay before making a commitment.

Does next of kin have to pay care home fees

Paying for assisted living

Individuals can choose to rent or buy a property in an assisted living complex or retirement village. 

Depending on the size of the site, you may be able to choose between a flat, bungalow or small house – though prices will vary.

Other options to lease or have shared ownership can make assisted living cheaper than a care home.

rent an assisted living flat


If you choose to rent your retirement property, you will be liable to pay monthly rent and bills.

Plus any other charges stipulated in your rental agreement.

You also have to pay fees for care and other services that you use on top of this.


Buying a retirement property means that you have to pay maintenance costs, mortgage payments and any other associated fees.

This is separate from your utilities, care costs and any other services that you use.

What should you consider before moving to an assisted living facility?

Care needs

Individuals with fewer care needs, or those which won’t increase steadily, are more suitable candidates for assisted living. 

This is because care needs are general rather than specific to a condition such as Alzheimer’s.

Personal needs

Even if your care needs are few, assisted living may be good for people wanting more social interaction. 

Because of the social nature of assisted living, people are around at all times and there’s always a friendly face to be found. 

This can be crucial for how to cope with loneliness and is a great alternative to companion care or a befriending service

You can even live in an assisted living facility as a couple.

care funding guide


Knowing what you have to pay for care is essential before you make any commitment. 

You may be able to get help from local authority funding for care as a result of your needs assessment. 

But the bottom line is that you need enough money to live comfortably and get the care you require. 

Read up on paying for home care or care home fees to decide which option is financially viable for you.

your assisted living apartment

Property specifications

Downsizing is often a motivation for older people moving into an assisted living facility or retirement village. 

Instead of navigating stairs, or dealing with poorly insulated properties, retirement homes are often modern and reliable. 

This can help provide peace of mind that you or your loved one won’t have any nasty surprises at home. 


Would your loved one benefit from staying in the city or town that they love or moving to be closer to family?

Remember that assisted living somewhat removes the need for loved ones to be close by to provide care support. 

But being on hand for visits and moral support is never a bad thing.

cqc ratings for assisted living


All assisted living facilities are regulated by the CQC and provided with a rating.

Look out for providers that have an ‘Outstanding’ or ‘Good’ rating, and read reviews before you make a commitment.  

This can give you an idea of customer satisfaction and what kind of support your loved one will receive. 

Check out the Elderly Accommodation Council directory of assisted living facilities in the UK.

Find the best care for you

Find the best care for you

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