Independent Living: A Guide to Choosing Ideal Communities for Seniors

Article Summary

This article provides an overview of independent senior living, including the benefits, costs, and how to find the right community.

Key takeaways:

  1. Independent senior living can provide seniors with a sense of community and social interaction.
  2. The cost of independent senior living can be comparable to living at home, depending on the amenities and services included.
  3. When looking for an independent senior living community, consider the price point, the level of assistance needed, and the amenities and services included.

Why Would a Family Caregiver Consider Independent Senior Living for an Aging Loved One?

Seniors in independent living manage their day-to-day lives on their own. There is no staff to help with personal care, although hiring home care is always an option.

In many cases, the senior living community handles yard work, home maintenance, and sometimes housekeeping, which can be beneficial. However, the true value of an independent senior living community is just that – community. Being surrounded by friends and neighbors who can easily get together or drop in on one another can make a big difference in an older adult’s life.

A recent study showed that seniors who live in retirement communities are likelier than those who don’t to:

  • Be healthier for longer
  • Be happier and enjoy life more
  • Be less lonely
  • Be more active
  • Feel safer

Family caregivers of older adults in independent senior living may have less to worry about, less to organize in terms of social interaction, and more hands to call upon with all the friends and neighbors easily available.

How Much Does Independent Senior Living Cost?

The cost of independent senior living communities varies widely and there are different pricing structures to consider, so they don’t always line up for an exact comparison. Some communities' pricing covers only the rent, while others include utilities, activities, or access to amenities like a pool or community rec center. Monthly rates could range from $1,500 for a more affordable option to $6,000 or more for a luxurious layout with lots of benefits.

The cost of an independent senior living setting can actually be somewhat comparable with that of living at home. Don’t forget to factor in all the expenses of homeownership and consider the potential need for future services – housekeeping or yardwork, for example – and home modifications that may be needed to age in place safely.

There are other considerations, too. For example, it’s known that staying active and socially engaged is good for the health of older adults and that doing so can help prevent or delay many health issues that can lead to a need for more expensive support or health care.

How Can I Find an Independent Senior Living Community?

Independent senior living takes many forms – apartment buildings, houses, manufactured homes, condos, or duplexes are among the styles common to independent senior living communities.

Independent senior living is sometimes called by other names, like:

  • Active adult community
  • 55+ community
  • Retirement community
  • Retirement home

To find an independent senior living community for your loved one:

  • First, consider what you want and need.
    • Your price point
    • How much assistance with personal care, mobility, meal preparation, or other activities of daily living does your loved one require now? If they need this type of help – or are likely to need it soon – it may be better to opt for an assisted living or group home setting (unless they strongly prefer to age in place with in-home care support).
    • Which perks would you like if possible, and are there any non-negotiables (pets, pool, gym, garden area, community social events, etc)?
    • What’s your loved one’s ideal setting – close to the convenience of town or further out into the peaceful countryside?
    • What’s important for your loved one to be able to access easily – family, health care, shopping, religious, cultural, or community centers?
  • Look through the recommended Independent Senior Living communities on your Olera dashboard.
  • Make a list of your top choices and set up tours with your top options.
  • For each community you tour, pay attention to:
    • How comfortable do you feel in the environment?
    • Is there convenient transportation available if you were unable to drive?
    • The rules regarding what is and isn’t allowed. Some communities have strict rules about visitors, gardens, barbecue grills, outdoor decor, pets, and many other areas you might not have thought about.
    • What amenities or services are included with the monthly fee? Is there any extra charge for repairs or maintenance needs?
  • Choose the senior living setting that ultimately feels like home.

Author Bio

Laura Herman is an elder and dementia care professional who advocates for better senior care in America. This article has been reviewed by TJ Falohun, co-founder and CEO of Olera. He is a trained biomedical engineer and writes about the cost of healthcare in America for seniors.

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