Independent vs. Assisted Living: What To Know And How To Decide

Megan Ray  |  November 25, 2014

As adults creep closer to their senior years, one topic that will become increasingly more important is that of housing options for their golden years. For some, illness or disability may put restrictions on their living accommodations, preventing them from owning their own home or living alone. Others may wish to retain their independence, but may find that their retiree's fixed income and pension may not be enough to have their own place. Senior living communities can provide a cost-effective housing solution. However, it's essential to know the differences between assisted living and independent living, so you can help seniors make the choice that's best for them.

Assisted living
When many adults think of the classic conception of a "nursing home," assisted living is typically what they have in mind. However, this option is typically intended for those seniors who are physically or cognitively unable to live on their own. With many seniors developing and living with chronic health conditions, ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer's disease and dementia, it can quickly become unfeasible for family members to maintain the role of full-time caregiver. Assisted living facilities offer seniors the ability to keep their own living space, while simultaneously offering any needed medical staff who are able to help residents with basic tasks, from scheduling medications and doctor's visits to more basic functions such as bathing or using the bathroom. 

Another key element of assisted living communities is that they tend to incorporate full-time medial personnel on staff. Whether orderlies and other staff receive medical and first-aid training, or the facility keeps registered nurses or even doctors on staff, such a living accommodation offers residents access to emergency medical personnel 24 hours a day. This is important not only for the safety of the senior, but also for the peace of mind of their family members who want to make sure their loved one is taken care of. 

Independent living
Many seniors are able to live independently, but either lack the financial resources to own or rent their own home, or simply want to move into an environment that offers more in the way of social opportunities. For such individuals, independent living communities are a great choice. Many seniors may choose to move to an independent living community simply to alleviate the responsibility that comes with owning a house, such as caring for the grounds, shoveling snow and making any necessary home repairs. 

These communities can vary in structure from subdivisions and apartment complexes to full-fledged retirement homes. Residents tend to be fairly active, and thus often desire friends and comrades their own age with whom they can socialize. To help facilitate a healthy, active lifestyle, many such communities frequently organize day trips and activities, Caring.com noted. Residents of independent living communities are also sometimes provided with off-campus transportation to attend external activities.

Many independent living communities provide accommodations akin to apartments or cottages. In addition to bedroom and bathroom facilities, independent living housing can frequently offer full-service kitchens as part of the resident's suite. These residents are thus able to prepare and even host their own dinners.

Join Our Newsletter