Resource Center / Senior Living Guides / Independent vs. Assisted Living: What's the Difference?

Independent vs. Assisted Living: What's the Difference?

Get the lowdown on independent vs. assisted living with Seniorly. We can help you understand the differences between these types of senior living communities.

By Seniorly Editor · Updated Dec 2, 2022

Seniors have so many options for housing, it can be difficult to know where to start. Assisted living and independent living are two of the most common types of senior living options. Understanding the differences, levels of care, and costs can help families determine which senior living options are right for their loved ones.

The level of care can vary by type of community, but at a high-level, here are some of the major differences between assisted living and independent living:

 Assisted LivingIndependent Living
On-site medical staff (nursing care)X 
Memory & personal care supportX 
Community activities & socializationXX
Transportation & housekeepingXX

We’ll break down the independent living vs. assisted living below with our video and resource guides.

Who can choose independent living?

Independent living is a great option for elderly adults who want to stay active and engaged as they age, but don't necessarily need the daily support of trained caregivers.

Independent living communities often feature fitness programs, community outreach programs, and transportation options to help residents stay connected to the greater community. They provide important socialization opportunities while maintaining an independent lifestyle.

Here are some of the top reasons for moving into independent living:

  • Desire for a maintenance-free lifestyle
  • To be closer to family
  • To age in place
  • Socialization opportunities

Types of independent living

Here are some of the most common types of independent living communities that allow seniors to still live alone:

  • Age-restricted apartments
  • Communities with hotel-like amenities
  • Continuing care communities (which allow you to “age in place,” moving from independent living, to assisted, to memory or other levels of care as needed)

Who needs assisted living?

Assisted living, on the other hand, is a nice option for elders who need assistance with the activities of daily living (including bathing, dressing, and personal care) and anticipate needing more care services as they age.

Activities at assisted living communities include art and music classes, game and movie nights, holiday parties, and more. Families that have a loved one in an assisted living community are encouraged to visit and join their elderly loved ones at mealtimes, as well as participate in holiday parties and other special events.

While adults have many reasons and preferences for moving into assisted living options (including peace of mind), here are some of the most common reasons why your loved one may want to move into an assisted living facility:

  • Cost savings (assisted living is often less expensive than in-home care)
  • Support and assistance with the activities of daily living, personal care, medication management, and support for health conditions
  • Memory care needs for people with a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia

Types of assisted living

Similarly with independent living, the types of assisted living for seniors vary based upon level of care, cost, and medical attention. Here are some of the most common types of assisted living for older adults:

  • Board and Care Homes (or Residential Care Homes)
  • Large assisted living communities (with hundreds of units)
  • Memory care facilities
  • Skilled nursing facilities or nursing homes

Assisted living vs. independent living explained

In our “Seniorly Conversations” video series, Seniorly Founder & CEO Arthur Bretschneider discusses the differences between independent living vs. assisted living communities. This video provides comprehensive information on the types of communities available, so that your family can have all the resources they need to make an informed decision when it comes time to choose a senior home they will love.

“While statistics say that people over 65 want to age in their own homes, the reality is that as people age, their health conditions change, and sometimes so do their preferences,” says Bretschneider.

Maybe you want to be more socially connected and get involved in community activities. Maybe you want to be closer to family or spend less money on in-home caregiving services. Whatever the reason, moving into an elder care community can offer a range of benefits for people hoping to remain happy and engaged as they age.

Here's the video transcript for those who would prefer to read along

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Seniorly Editor

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