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What is Independent Living for Older Adults?

Senior adults laughing and smiling at  each other

Taking care of a house, yard, and chores becomes less and less appealing as we age. Fortunately, there’s a solution that can help you reclaim your free time and allow you to spend more time doing what you enjoy.

Independent living for older adults is a living option where you’ll move into an apartment, condo, or small home where the maintenance, chores, and more are already taken care of each month. 

Learn more about independent living and see if it’s the right fit for you in this blog article.

Features and Benefits of Independent Living

For older adults who want to free themselves of the hassle of homeownership and want more time to pursue their passions, independent living could be a good option.

Independent living is for older adults who don’t need specialized medical care and are - as the name implies - mostly independent. They’re free to go about their days as they wish. 

These amenities are typically included in the fee structure of an independent living community or available nearby:

  • Utilities
  • Some services (like housekeeping)
  • Dining and meal options
  • A social calendar
  • Recreational and educational opportunities
  • Access to additional care if needed

In regards to that last item on the list, many older adults choose to move to an independent living community because of the peace of mind in knowing that help is always nearby if they need it. 

In independent living, you can spend more time on the things you enjoy and less time checking off items on your to-do list. 

Independent Living Options

Be aware that not all independent living communities are the same. As you begin your search, you’ll find a variety of choices. Depending on your needs, budget, and desired lifestyle, you’ll have to evaluate each one to see if it’s right for you.

Here are three of the most common types of independent living options you’ll encounter. 

  1. Rental communities. These are often available at a lower cost, and you benefit by being around others your own age. However, you’re essentially just renting an apartment - you won’t have access to extra services or additional care unless you hire outside help.

  2. Retirement communities. A step up in terms of amenities, retirement communities are havens for older adults who want to enjoy their golden years. You’ll be around other like-minded residents and likely have access to housekeeping, dining, and more.

    Retirement communities are focused on convenience and comfort, not future care, so keep in mind that you still might have to move elsewhere down the road if your medical needs change.

  3. Life Plan communities. Also called continuing care retirement communities, these are places where all your needs - present and future - can be accommodated. These communities often have a variety of accommodations, from independent living homes and assisted living apartments to skilled nursing care.

Not only will you enjoy the convenience of activities and services, but you’ll also be able to access additional care right on campus if you ever need it.

Life Plan communities typically focus on the holistic health of each resident. However, they can be the most expensive option - although not prohibitively so if you do the research. 

Because each option offers different pros and cons, costs and benefits, plan to spend time doing research and considering which one is right for you. It might help to think about overall value for the long term instead of upfront cost only. 

Related read: Experience a resident’s day at an independent living community >>

Common Questions About Independent Living

Naturally, you probably have some questions about this lifestyle option. To help you understand if it’s right for you, here are a few common questions and answers about independent living.

Q: How much does independent living cost?

Costs vary widely depending on where you live and what type of community you choose. According to ASHA, costs may range from $1,000 per month to $6,000 a month. It’s best to check with the community you’re considering for exact pricing. 

You should also note that neither Medicare nor Medicaid covers the cost of independent living since it’s not considered medical care. Most independent living communities are private-pay only. 

Q: Isn’t that much more expensive than living at home?

Not necessarily. Although living at home seems like the “free” option, it’s not - consider bills, rent or mortgage payments, groceries, and transportation costs. Most of these things would be covered by your monthly fee at a retirement community. It’s best to do a comparison using a cost comparison guide or worksheet.

Q: Will I really be independent in independent living?

Yes! Independent living is for older adults who want to give up the work of homeownership but who are active and engaged. In independent living, there’s no set schedule of activities or things to do - you can set your own agenda. 

Q: How do I research independent living communities?

Word-of-mouth is a great place to start. Ask friends, family members, and neighbors if they have any recommendations. You can also check with your local Area Agency on Aging or do a simple internet search to get started. Use search phrases like “retirement community near me” to find local options. 

Once you’re narrowed it down to a few options that seem to fit your sensibilities and budget, plan a visit to see the community in person. You’ll have a chance to get a better look at the community and ask questions. 

Q: Would I be able to bring my pet?

Many retirement communities allow pets as long as they’re well-behaved and calm. Check with the community you’re interested in to see what their requirements are. 

A Life Plan Community in Bellville, IL

The Esquiline is a faith-based Life Plan community with a focus on helping residents live their best lives - in mind, body, and spirit. You’ll find a variety of independent living floor plan options, access to on-campus continuing care, and beautiful surroundings on our grounds at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows. 

Learn more about the Life Plan structure and dive deeper into what independent living can offer you. Download your free guide today to get started.

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