Insights into extra care housing

At a recent event held by HousingLin and the ECHO Project, results from the research into the future of extra care housing provided useful insights to help shape thinking into extra care provision and delivery.


Extra care, also known as assisted living, retirement living communities or integrated housing with care is becoming a popular choice for many older people considering a move in later life, with many seeing it as an alternative to living isolated in the family home, going into a care home, or as an alternative to buying or renting sheltered housing.

As the UK population ages, the number of older people living on their own and requiring formal care is increasing. This has prompted the need for more appropriate housing options for older people that enable them to live independently but with care available when they require additional support.

The study focused on four key areas, looking at extra care provision from different points of view to help operators understand the range of perspectives involved when designing extra care housing and support.

Below, we highlight the findings from one of the perspectives of the research - the views of the customer.

What residents want and why

The study involved over 150 interviews with residents at four extra care schemes in 2 local authority areas, to find out what residents want from extra care housing. Clearly this is an important consideration for any operator wishing to run a successful scheme - to start from the perspective of the customer.

The results themselves should not come as a surprise, however making sure that what residents want is actually delivered as part of their daily experience is the challenge to embed into practice.


  • Residents echoed the need to maintain their independence as an important factor, despite reducing mobility, disability or illness.
  • To achieve independence, residents enjoyed being kept busy through activity which they felt helped them to delay the onset of ageing - physical and mental decline. 
  • A full activities programme that also provided opportunities for residents to self organise, either as individuals or as a group was cited as an important consideration to empowering residents to keep their independence and contribute to the life of the community.
  • In addition, onsite facilities, resources and links to the local community were also important. Residents expressed a wish to feel a part of the community in which they live. Poor transport links or inaccessible building designs within extra care schemes were considered hindrances to helping residents maintain their independence.


Care and support

The beauty of extra care housing is that individuals can access care and support services as and when required, providing a greater level of flexibility and choice for individuals.

  • The findings from the research revealed that residents were more inclined to rely on informal support from family and friends than on formal care. Resistance to dependency on formal care was pursued for as long as possible and residents found ways to adapt in order to maintain their independence.
  • Formal care was considered only at a time when it was felt to be absolutely necessary. 
  • It is therefore important that extra care housing schemes provide residents access to technologies and assistive aids that increase independence, and create opportunities for residents to be able to help and support each other.

Maintaining control

  • Continuing with the theme of independence another important criteria was the need to maintain control. Residents want to be able to manage the timing and context of how care and support is provided to facilitate the way they want to live. 
  • A frustration expressed was the issue of the workforce - staff shortages or shift patterns hindering how care and support services could be accessed by individuals.

The findings of this research gives helpful insights into the resident’s perspective when considering options for extra care housing.

Schemes that are operated to empower the individual to remain independent will clearly stand out from those schemes that don’t. Although residents acknowledged the impact of physical and mental decline, the desire to maintain independence combined with the opportunity to contribute and develop relationships is very important to residents.

Providing flexibility in service provision and delivery, and using assistive technologies to facilitate greater levels of independence should be incorporated into extra care housing schemes where possible.

For more information about the ECHO Project visit

The ECHO Project is a collaboration between the School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, the Association for Dementia Studies at the University of Worcester, the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent, and the Housing Learning and Improvement Network. Since 2015 the team at ECHO have carried out a longitudinal study to explore how care is negotiated and delivered in extra care housing schemes for older people.

The Housing Learning and Improvement Network (LIN) is a sophisticated network bringing together housing, health and social care professionals in England and Wales to exemplify innovative housing solutions for an ageing population. Visit:

Edna Petzen @EdnaPetzen is director and marketing consultant at Lynden Consulting, a marketing and communications company helping health and adult social care businesses develop marketing strategy, manage their brand, improve performance and achieve communication excellence. Get in touch today to find out how we can help.