Background As the population is ageing rapidly in Beijing, the residential care sector is in a fast expansion process with the support of the municipal government. Understanding spatial accessibility to residential care resources by older people supports the need for rational allocation of care resources in future planning. Methods Based on population data and data on residential care resources, this study uses two Geographic Information System (GIS) based methods – shortest path analysis and a two-step floating catchment area (2SFCA) method to analyse spatial accessibility to residential care resources. Results Spatial accessibility varies as the methods and considered factors change. When only time distance is considered, residential care resources are more accessible in the central city than in suburban and exurban areas. If care resources are considered in addition to time distance, spatial accessibility is relatively poor in the central city compared to the northeast to southeast side of the suburban and exurban areas. The resources in the northwest to southwest side of the city are the least accessible, even though several hotspots of residential care resources are located in these areas. Conclusions For policy making, it may require combining various methods for a comprehensive analysis. The methods used in this study provide tools for identifying underserved areas in order to improve equity in access to and efficiency in allocation of residential care resources in future planning.