As we get older, many of us are faced with the possibility of having to adjust our living arrangements. We find it has now become more difficult to manage all of the daily tasks we used to be able to take care of, like maintaining the yards, home repairs and the daily upkeep of a standard size home. In addition, being cut off from social activities and regular transportation coupled with feelings of isolation may not be a healthy environment and can add to feelings of loneliness and depression.
Many of us would like to enjoy a simplified lifestyle free from chores and the responsibilities of maintaining a home while still benefitting from an independent way of life. Being a part of an active social setting, with daily events and activities that cultivate friendship, community and a connection with others may be a good option. While moving can be a daunting responsibility, by making preparations ahead of time and allowing yourself the opportunity to adjust and cope with change, you can enjoy your independence and thrive in your new home.
What is independent living?
Independent living communities, also known as retirement homes, retirement communities or senior housing, offer a wide range of benefits for seniors looking to preserve their independent lifestyle. Many independent living communities provide a multitude of physical, intellectual and social activities to enrich their residents’ golden years.
Independent living is a way that older adults that have the physical and mental capacity to live autonomously in their own space, while still being a part of a community of people their own age. These types of retirement accommodations offer apartment or condominium style homes within an age restricted or 55+ community.
What are the costs of an independent retirement community?
Just as property values vary by geographic location, independent living costs also vary from state to state. The cost of an independent living community is typically less than that of a nursing home or assisted living, and it may be less expensive than living at home. Prices can range widely, contingent upon the services offered and the size of the unit. The range varies between $1,000 to $3,500 per month.
Independent senior living properties do not provide health care or assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as taking medication, bathing, eating, dressing, toileting and more. Independent senior living differs from continuing care communities, which offer independent living along with multiple other levels of care, such as assisted living and skilled nursing, in one single residence.
Independent senior living residents are permitted to use third-party home health care services to meet additional needs. Independent retirement communities are private pay. Some require an admission fee, while others only require a month-to-month, comprehensive rent payment. It's important to question each community about their specific costs and services, as they can vary.
What types of services and amenities does an independent living community offer?
Even though residents live independently, most communities offer activities, services and various types of amenities. Often, athletic or recreational centers are available onsite to give seniors the opportunities to not only socialize, but to develop or maintain an active, healthy lifestyle.
As an overview, here are some of the many features, amenities and services independent senior housing communities offer:
- Private studio, 1, 2, or 3 bedroom apartment homes or cottages
- Maintenance-free living
- Full-service restaurant-style dining
- Housekeeping and laundry services
- Personal or community transportation
- Hair salons/Spa/Barber shops
- Fitness centers/Tennis courts/Swimming Pool/Golf course/Activity rooms
- Libraries/Computer labs
- Community Gathering Areas/Outdoor Patios/Resident Gardens
- Guest Accommodations/Parking
- Social, Cultural and Educational Programs
- Group outings
- Book clubs/Card games
- Wine & cheese parties/Happy Hour
- Walking clubs
- Spiritual & religious programs/ Educational classes/Guest speakers/Seminars
- Onsite travel services
- 24-Hour Staffing/ Lifeline-style emergency response systems
Since independent living facilities are intended for older adults who need little or no assistance with activities of daily living, many do not offer medical care or nursing staff. As with regular housing, though, you can hire in-home help separately as required.
What types of independent senior living facilities are there?
Independent senior living communities often are referred to by different names. The following are common names for independent senior housing:
- Retirement homes
- Retirement communities
- Congregate care
- 55+, 62+ senior communities
- Active adult communities
- Senior housing or senior apartment
- Continuing Care Retirement Community
There are many types of independent living communities, from apartment complexes to individual houses, which range in cost and the services provided.
Senior Housing Units: Senior communities that offer single-family homes, townhomes, mobile homes, condominiums or cottages. There are some selected communities that are attached to an adjoining, apartment-style independent senior living community.
Senior Apartments: Senior apartments are the most common type of independent living. Services usually include various amenities such as fitness and recreational programs, transportation, dining, housekeeping and personal grooming.
Continuing Care Facilities: Senior communities that offer access to independent living facilities, as well as assisted living and skilled nursing. Residents can relocate to different levels of care based on their amount of need. Additionally, some Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) also provide memory care facilities.
Subsidized Senior Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides retirement communities for low-income seniors. Subsidized senior facilities usually adhere to precise restrictions and may have long waiting lists.
It is important to research and investigate any senior residential facility before making a commitment and moving in. It is also critical to visit and tour more than one community or housing unit before you make your final decision.
Before deciding on an independent senior living community, make sure all of the costs and restrictions are addressed, all of your questions are answered and you feel comfortable before moving in.