Independent Living vs Assisted Living

Independent Living vs Assisted Living

For retirees considering housing options, it’s important to balance independence, safety, and comfort. While staying at home may seem ideal, it can also lead to feelings of isolation and lack of stimulation. Home maintenance and chores can be taxing on retirees, especially if they have health issues. Moving into a retirement community offers newfound freedom for retirees. Understanding the differences between assisted and independent living is important to determine the best fit.

Both offer housing and services for older adults, but distinct differences set them apart. Depending on the level of independence desired or needed, various options are available. This article covers the services, amenities, and pricing details of each type of community. Make a confident decision by exploring these factors before making a move.

Difference Between Independent Living and Assisted Living

In addition to thoughtfully designed housing, assisted and independent living communities offer amenities, daily meal plans, and exciting social activities. However, there are some significant differences between them. Assisted living assists with activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing and dressing. Independent living is for people who can accomplish these tasks independently.

Assisted living communities offer caregiver support and assistance with daily living activities such as dressing, grooming, showering, moving around, and managing medications. A caregiver’s presence around the clock is often the biggest difference between assisted and independent living.

On the other hand, independent living communities provide maintenance-free living similar to assisted living, but without the 24-hour support of care givers. They cater to older adults who are self-sufficient and need minimal assistance with daily tasks.

Independent Living Communities

An independent living community is an apartment complex for individuals aged 55 and over, including additional services tailored to active adults. These communities offer organized activities, meal options, and convenient transportation. Some even provide extra assistance with tasks like housekeeping and errands.

Although independent living and assisted living share certain similarities, independent living communities primarily serve self-reliant residents who do not need direct assistance. Independent living communities offer opportunities for community involvement, a sense of independence, and various amenities such as maintenance-free living.

Independent living communities offer:

  • Essential Services: meals, laundry, housekeeping, transportation
  • Activities like yoga, game nights, and community outings and events
  • Amenity-filled, maintenance-free living
  • Restaurant-style dining

Some independent living communities may have arrangements for home care services. This means you can get the services you need without having to move to a higher level of care. For more information on this, see aging in place.

Other terms used to define this type of community:

Assisted Living Communities

Assisted living communities provide long-term housing and personalized healthcare services for those who require additional support. This may include assistance with medication management, personal hygiene tasks, and mobility.

Assisted living communities offer:

  • Apartment-style living
  • Assistance with ADLs
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry services
  • Restaurant-style dining
  • A variety of activities and events
  • Local transportation services for errands and medical appointments

When considering an assisted living community, it’s important to inquire about the staff-to-resident ratio. Each community has specific health standards for admitting new residents. Not all facilities offer full-time care; some may only provide minor medical assistance. For this reason, make sure to ask when visiting these communities. 

Also referred to as:

  • Assisted living facilities
  • Residences
  • Adult congregate care
  • Adult care homes
  • Residential care facilities

Independent Living vs Assisted Living Cost

Ask each community about their specific costs and services, as costs fluctuate annually or monthly. The cost of independent living is generally lower than assisted living. In fact, most assisted living facilities include only a small number of activities in their base monthly price. Most independent living communities include things like housekeeping and local transportation in their monthly fee. 

Several factors influence the price of assisted and independent living:

  • Apartment Style & Size: Consider varying costs when choosing among various floor plan options for apartments.
  • Types of Services Needed: Some services may only be available as an add-on.
  • Location: Independent or assisted living on the West Coast will usually be more expensive than in the Midwest.

Which Community is Right for You or Your Loved One?

Both independent living and assisted living communities offer a maintenance-free lifestyle with upscale amenities, access to wellness programs, and activities. But, for those who require 24/7 assistance or care, assisted living may be the ideal next choice. 

When selecting a community for yourself or a loved one, it is important to consider needs. If you  need assistance with daily tasks but want to remain active, assisted living communities caters to both needs.

Assisted Living Might be the Right Choice if:

  • Need help with ADLs 
  • You don’t require 24-hour medical care
  • Are in good health now but know you will need more help soon
  • You are looking for social activities
  • Prefer an active lifestyle
  • Don’t have access to transportation

Independent Living Might be the Right Choice if:

  • Can live independently
  • Want a maintain-free life with amenities
  • Are looking to meet people their age with similar interests
  • Appreciate privacy
  • Would enjoy a vibrant, communal atmosphere
  • Want access to services and activities geared toward active adults