group of seniors laughing enjoying outdoor independent living community pool

Independent Living: The Complete Guide 2022

Independent living is housing intended to make life easier for seniors. These independent living communities cater to active older adults who want a low-stress lifestyle. The focus of independent living communities is to preserve your independence for longer. Most independent living facilities are in a safe environment with a range of activities to encourage an active social life.

 

What is Independent Living for Seniors?

Independent living is housing specifically designed for aging adults. Independent living communities aim to provide low-maintenance, secure housing for seniors.

The type of housing varies depending on the community.

For example, the community may offer apartments, condominiums, villas, or single-family homes.

Housing is built to enable seniors to thrive in retirement. For example, strategically placed safety bars, good lighting, and no yard work.

 

Many independent living communities offer amenities and have community facilities.

For instance, they may have a recreational center or clubhouse. Likely they offer things like holiday gatherings, movie nights, or art classes.

 

Some facilities may have a fitness center, swimming pool, golf course, or other exciting activities.

Additionally, sometimes services are offered.

For example, services offered may include beauty salons, housekeeping, laundry services, transportation, or daily meals.

 

 

 

Types of Independent Living Communities

Independent living can be referred to by other names, such as:

  • Retirement Communities
  • Congregate Care
  • Retirement Homes
  • Retirement Villages
  • 55+ or 62+ Apartments or Communities
  • Senior Apartments
  • Senior Housing
  • Continuing Care Retirement Communities

 

 

Retirement Homes – Retirement Communities

Retirement communities are usually groups of homes with restrictions on age. They often only allow older adults, for example, 55+ or 62+ years old.

The types of homes can vary. For example, some may be detached single-family homes, townhomes, mobile homes, or condominiums.

In addition to purchasing the house, there is usually a monthly fee to cover the cost of the amenities.

 

Amenities usually vary.

For instance, amenities may include recreation centers, pools, clubhouses, fitness centers, golf, meals, and other services.

 

Senior Apartments or Congregate Care Housing

These are typically apartment complexes with 55+ or 62+ age restrictions.

Rent may include amenities, some even having a communal dining hall.

 

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs)

These communities offer a spectrum of care. For example, care can range from independent living, assisted living, to nursing home care –  all within the same community.

This spectrum of care allows residents to transfer to a higher level of care within the same site if their needs increase.

 

Having a range of care available in the same community will enable you to stay in the same environment if your care needs change.

 

 

 

Seniors having fun at independent living facility 

Understanding Community Services and Amenities

Most independent living communities offer a wide range of amenities and services.

To find a community that is right for you, think about which amenities are important to you.

For example:

  • Do you think you may not want to cook your means in the future? Then consider a place that has communal meals as an option.
  • Is exercise part of your daily routine? Consider a community that offers fitness classes, a weight room, or a pool.

 

 

Why is Independent Living Important for Seniors?

Aging adults can thrive by engaging in a low-stress, healthy, all-inclusive lifestyle.

A community that encourages socialization and hobbies geared to the interests of older adults provides many benefits for seniors.

 

 

Benefits of Independent Living

Maintenance Free Living

Seniors prefer independent living communities because they do not have the maintenance associated with owning a home.

This means no more yard work, shoveling, or house repairs.

The facilities usually have a maintenance team that cares for the lawn and makes interior and exterior repairs.

 

All-Inclusive Rent

All your home bills, like rent, utilities, internet, and cable, are usually included in one monthly payment.

This makes bill paying and budgeting much more manageable.

 

Calm Environment

Most communities have an age requirement. For example, residents must be at least 55 or 62 years old.

Therefore, no children are running around the neighborhood or late-night college parties.

The amenities are age-appropriate with senior needs in mind.

 

Nutritious Meals

Many facilities offer meal services as an option.

The meals are usually cooked daily by internal chefs.

This provides seniors with easy access to quality nutrition.

 

Social Interaction

Almost one-third of seniors live alone and frequently become less social as they age.

Loneliness is a risk for older adults.

 

Studies show that loneliness and social isolation create higher risks for health issues.

These health issues can include heart diseasedepression, and cognitive decline.

 

Although seniors have their private living space in independent living, they are also part of an active community. The opportunity to make new friends is great because these seniors are surrounded by like-minded people with similar interests.

 

 

 

close up home model money and keys signifying cost of independent living facilities

 

Cost for Independent Living for Seniors

Independent living facilities vary widely regarding the type of housing, services and amenities, and geographic location.

The cost of independent living differs significantly as well.

For example, prices range considerably, typically from $1500 – $10,000 per month.

 

To ensure you have a good understanding of cost, it is essential to do your research.

In other words, carefully compare what each community offers when looking at the price.

 

For instance, things to consider include:

  • Is it a studio apartment, villa, or a detached two-bedroom home?
  • Are things like meals, housecleaning, transportation, and laundry included in the monthly fee?
  • Does the community offer different price plans depending on what services you want?

 

 

Affordable Independent Living for Seniors

How do you choose affordable living for seniors?

Consider what you are paying now to prevent sticker shock when looking for an affordable independent living community.

 

In addition, independent living facility fees may include some of your current expenses.

For example:

  • What are your current expenses?
  • Do you currently pay
    • a mortgage
    • property taxes
    • rent
    • home insurance
    • lawn maintenance
    • snow removal
    • gym membership
    • groceries
    • transportation
    • entertainment
    • utilities

Will some of these current expenses be included in the monthly fee?

 

When comparing different communities, you may want to ask:

  • What does the monthly fee include? For example, what amenities, services, and housing maintenance.
  • How does the community support aging in place as your needs change?
  • Do you measure resident satisfaction with surveys? Can I see the surveys? You may also want to talk to some residents to see how they like the community.
  • What are the most popular activities in the community? Who decides on the scheduled activities?

 

 

senior black couple standing by house independent living community

 

Is Independent Living Right for You?

There are several things to take into account when researching independent living facilities.

Think about your current living arrangement.

For example:

  • Is your home too large, does it have too many stairs, and is frequent maintenance needed?
  • Are the walkways safe?
  • Is there a lot of crime in the neighborhood?

 

Independent living facilities are low maintenance.

They also come in a variety of types and sizes.

In addition, they are usually secure as they cater to aging adults.

 

Consider the benefits of socialization.

Is it easy to socialize now with others?

Connecting with people, especially as we age, can be challenging.

Sometimes driving or transportation can also make it difficult to visit people. Furthermore, friends and neighbors may be busy or not close by.

 

Independent living communities also offer a social network of peers and fun, with structured activities. In addition, activities are usually easy to access.

 

Independent living is geared toward healthier seniors.  

Think about your health. Are you able to engage in an active lifestyle?

For example:

  • Are you and your spouse healthy?
  • Do you enjoy an active, social lifestyle?
  • Are you independent? For example, are you able to manage your activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, and eating?
  • Do you have a health condition that likely will worsen over time? If so, think about what options are available and whether they will be conducive if your health condition declines.

 

 

Paying Options for Independent Living

Independent living communities cater to lifestyle, not healthcare.

Therefore, the fees associated with living in a retirement community are usually not covered by Medicaid, Medicare, or health insurance.

However, if you need in-home care assistance, Medicaid, long-term care insurance, and Veterans benefits may help cover the cost.

Private Pay

Most seniors pay for the independent living facility’s monthly fee privately. For example, many pay their living costs using their retirement savings.

Sell or Renting the Home

Frequently seniors sell their homes to help finance independent living expenses.

On the other hand, if they do not want to sell or can’t, some may rent out their current residence.

Then, they use that rental money to help make their community payments.

 

Seniors sell their homes for a variety of reasons.

Some want to downsize their space and enjoy an active lifestyle.

Others may wish to become a snowbird, avoiding cold weather in winter months by going someplace warmer.

Subsidized Assistance

Seniors may also qualify for subsidized rental assistance for low-income housing units.

This help comes from the Section 202 housing assistance voucher program.

 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds this program and may help pay for different housing types.

 

 

 

 

 

 

group of seniors laughing enjoying outdoor community pool

 

 

What to Consider

When Choosing an Independent Living Community, consider the following:

Housing Style

There are different styles of housing available, depending on the community.

Think about living space and how much you want.

For example, do you want a compact apartment, a luxury condo, or a larger detached house?

Location

Location is also something worth considering.

For instance, do you want to move someplace warm, like Florida or Arizona, or do you prefer to stay close to family?

Research what types of housing are available in the locations you desire.

Safety

Think about safety.

For example, ensure there is adequate lighting inside and outside.

In addition, make sure the grounds are well-maintained and free of debris.

Also, look for stairs and whether ramps can be added in the future (if needed).

Finally, see if the living space has adaptive devices like handrails and grab bars.

The Local Community

The local community should offer the things you like.

Therefore, you may want to check out the local places outside of the independent living community that you will likely visit.

 

For example:

    • Where is the grocery store or library?
    • Does the town have a museum, theater, medical facilities, or coffee shops?
    • Do you need a car or other transportation to utilize the amenities and local resources?
    • More importantly, do you feel safe accessing the places in the community?

Community Size

Consider the size of the independent living community.

Some people prefer a large size community.

A large community has a lot of people and more socialization opportunities.

On the other hand, others may be more comfortable with a smaller, less busy arrangement.

 

Community Residents 

The People. Connecting with others and feeling comfortable in the community will increase the likelihood of being active and engaging in activities.

 

As you visit different communities, it is a good idea to talk with residents.

See if the residents are people you seem to like.

You can also ask them about the community and what type of things they do.

 

In addition, interact with staff and try to get an idea of how active the community is.

 

Services and Amenities

Each community usually offers a variety of services and amenities.

Think about the things you like and also what is important to you.

Are your interests or hobbies catered to?

 

Other Senior Housing

Most independent living communities do not offer nursing or medical care.

Instead, they focus on seniors who need little or no help.

 

To read more about other senior housing options, including those that focus more on medical care, read our blog post: Senior Living: The Complete Senior Housing Guide. In this post, we review other types of senior housing, including assisted living, nursing homes, memory care, and more.

 

Conclusion

Independent living communities are designed to preserve your independence and making life easier for seniors. Most senior independent living facilities offer a selection of activities, amenities, and services so older adults can be social in a carefree environment. They usually have things easily accessible and provide safety features to keep the elderly secure.


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