What Is Independent Living?

Independent Living communities are designed for seniors who don't require much assistance but who want to streamline their lives and live with people of their own generation. Baby boomers in Independent Living typically are active and healthy, with no need for assistance with the activities of daily living. However, they want to avoid the hassle of maintenance and upkeep of their homes.

To make life easy and enjoyable for residents, Independent Living communities provide plenty of amenities. These may include dining facilities, landscaping and maintenance, housekeeping services, social activities and clubs, and exercise facilities. On-site amenities are often augmented by help delivered via the mobile economy, an ideal choice for active adults who like having services such as pet care, auto repair, or meal delivery available on demand.

If you or your loved one should choose an Independent Living community, you can expect to choose from a private apartment that ranges from a studio apartment to a spacious two-bedroom home. Residences may be available for either purchase or rent, depending on the community.

Types of Independent Living

While all Independent Living communities offer a variety of services and amenities, there are some differences between the types of communities available for you to choose between.

Active Adult Communities

Active adult communities are aimed at people who are 55 and older, and they're often targeted to appeal to baby boomers. These communities may consist of single-family homes, multi-family homes, townhomes, condos, or a mixture of different housing types.

These communities, which can be quite large, often host golf courses, clubhouses, pools, and other recreational amenities. While active adult communities aren't set up to provide health care services often found in skilled nursing or even assisted living, they sometimes offer some transportation options, such as shuttles to nearby shopping and entertainment. Residents typically pay a monthly fee that covers the amenities and all outdoor maintenance.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities

Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRC) make it easy for seniors to age in place by providing a continuum of care as their needs change. Often today's baby boomers start in Independent Living, with plans to move to assisted living if needed, and then to a skilled nursing facility if required. Because this happens within the same community, the change from one level of care to the next is far less jarring to the seniors in a CCRC.

Senior Apartments

Senior apartments are designed to cater to the physical and emotional needs of seniors. They generally have minimal stairs and feature safety equipment such as handrails in bathrooms.

Because senior apartments are located in age-restricted buildings, they often foster a real sense of community. They can take the form of standard single-family apartments or condos, or individual apartments can be arrange in suites, providing private bedrooms and bathrooms to seniors who then share a common living space and kitchen.

Age-Restricted Communities

Age-restricted communities, which are restricted to those 55 and over, are governed under the Fair Housing Act. According to the rules under this act, 80 percent of age-restricted units must house someone over 55, and no minors are allowed to live in the community. Age-restricted communities often feature a country club-style setting with a golf course, tennis courts, clubhouse, and swimming pools as well as other high-end amenities.

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Independent Living Alternatives

While active adult communities, CCRCs, and age-restricted communities are the most common types of Independent Living that baby boomers take advantage of, a few more innovative options are also available.

Co-Housing

In co-housing arrangements, residents enjoy both private and common living space. Generally a co-housing community features 20 to 40 homes centered around a central lawn or outdoor area. While everyone has personal living space, the entire community also enjoys living space, dining space, a large kitchen, and laundry facilities communally. Sometimes co-housing communities cater to residents who share the same hobbies or interests.

Cruise Ship Life

While there aren't any dedicated retirement cruises available, increasing numbers of baby boomers have crunched the numbers and realized that they can enjoy life on a cruise ship for about the same amount as they would spend on a retirement community on land. This alternative lifestyle is ideal for couples (who can avoid the higher charges that singles pay on cruises). The numbers work best if you stick with the same cruise line to build up loyalty points. However, cruising retirees can't count on regular health care if they need it, and spending a life at sea can eat into time spent with grandchildren and friends.

The Village Movement

The Village Movement is a rapidly growing alternative to retirement communities that's designed to let older adults stay in their own homes as they age. The "village" in question isn't an actual village, but a membership organization located within a given neighborhood. The members pay annual dues to gain access to a network of discounted services that include home health care, grocery delivery, and home maintenance services. In addition, the village often sponsors local social activities that draw the small communities together. Several hundred villages exist in various towns across the United States.

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Services Provided in Independent Living

The services and amenities available vary from one Independent Living community to another, but many communities offer some combination of these amenities:

  • Gyms and exercise facilities
  • Swimming pools and hot tubs
  • Beauty salons and barber shops
  • Dining facilities with chef-prepared meals
  • A full social activity schedule
  • Transportation near the community
  • Housekeeping, linen and/or laundry services
  • 24/7 security
  • Religious services

Medical Care in Independent Living Communities

You probably noticed that the above list of independent living amenities and services doesn't include medical care. Most active adults who choose an Independent Living community don't have significant medical needs when they move in to the community.

Sometimes baby boomers in an Independent Living community don't want to leave their homes to enter Assisted Living or a skilled nursing facility, even when their need for care becomes more urgent. One solution for aging citizens who do need some regular medical or personal care is Home Care services. With Home Care, trained caregivers provide the services needed right in the senior's own home.

One solution for aging citizens who do need some regular medical or personal care is Home Care services. With Home Care, trained caregivers provide the services needed right in the senior's own home.

At Seniorly, we have access to top Home Care services and are happy to connect you, if needed. For more information on Home Care, click here.

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Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

When older adults start to need help with the Activities of Daily Living, such as dressing, bathing and meal preparation, or when they have medical needs that require daily care, it may be time to consider an Assisted Living community rather than Independent Living. Take a look at the basic differences between these two types of senior care.

Independent Living Assisted Living
Private Apartments Usually No
Private Or Shared Rooms No Yes
Transportation Provided Sometimes Usually
Medication Management Services No Yes
3 Meals a Day Provided Sometimes Yes
Housekeeping Services Provided Sometimes Yes
Assistance With Activities of Daily Living No Yes
Social Activities Yes Yes
Exercise Facilities and Programs Yes Usually
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The Costs of Independent Living

The costs involved with life in an Independent Living community vary greatly depending on the type of community, the location, and the amenities offered. In some Independent Living communities, particularly active adult communities or age-restricted communities, residents may have the option to buy their homes rather than renting. In some rental communities, a buy-in fee is required to join the community.

Costs can range as low as $1,000 in Independent Living communities designated for low-income residents. On the other end of the spectrum, high-end Independent Living packed with luxurious amenities can feature condos running as high as $1 million or apartments with $100,000 buy-ins.

On average, though, you can expect to spend somewhere between $1,500 and $6,000 for the combination of rent/mortgage plus amenities or association fees. Some services, such as housekeeping, transportation or dining, may incur extra fees.

Independent Living fees are typically not covered by any type of insurance, including Medicare or long-term care insurance. However, if Independent Living residents require Home Care for medical reasons, some of those costs may be covered by insurance.

Residents should expect to pay out of their own pockets for Independent Living, as they would if living in their own homes outside an Independent Living community. Residents who are eligible for low-income housing may receive government subsidies toward their rent, though their choice of Independent Living community may be limited as a result.

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A thought while you wait ...


Age is merely the number of years the world has been enjoying us.