Assisted Living and Independent Living: What Are the Differences?

by Evergreen Retirement

The trend is clear: As the population bulge of the baby boom generation enters their golden years, demand is surging for senior living options. The population of the U.S. and most western industrialized nations is aging, and this is resulting in a variety of shifts in how societies function. The decision about where and how older adults will live is a challenge all families will inevitably face as surely as it must be addressed by our healthcare system, economy, and social programs.

Once the decision has been made to move an older loved one from their home to a secure, maintenance-free living arrangement, several initial choices present themselves: Independent or assisted living. 

But what does each term mean and what are the differences you need to consider in making the right choice? 

Independent Living

Independent living is usually the best choice for older adults who still want (and can manage) the day-to-day responsibilities of living independently but want the added security of access to assistance when it is needed. An independent living facility offers the best of both worlds. Residents manage their own units as they wish but have convenient access to a range of services. These typically include:

  • Dining and meal programs through the onsite facilities
  • Medical care and medication management
  • Entertainment and social events
  • Full or partial housekeeping and laundry services.

Independent-living communities are referred to by a variety of common terms:

  • Active Adult Communities
  • Adult Lifestyle Communities
  • Retirement Communities
  • 55+ Communities
  • Seniors Housing

Those who choose independent living are seeking the privacy and independence of life at home without the cost and worry of home repairs, yard work or the emotional toll that can come from isolation or limited mobility. In this carefree environment, residents can go about their days knowing that they are safe and that there is always qualified, skilled staff ready to assist them at a moment’s notice. 

Assisted Living

Assisted living is considered the preferable option for adults who are experiencing difficulties in managing some daily activities. Residents are free to live an independent lifestyle but do so with regular support for a personalized range of chores. In consultation with caregivers the family and loved one can decide on the personalized services necessary to meet their needs. Options usually include:

  • Full or partial meal preparation
  • Full or partial housekeeping services
  • Medication management
  • Assistance with showering and personal hygiene
  • Transportation to and from medical appointments outside the community.

Residents also benefit from remaining active and engaged with a busy calendar of social activities, day trips, and special events. For couples, assisted living allows for care to be completely personalized to that each partner has access to healthcare and personal care services as needed.

The degree to which independent and assisted-living residents feel part of a vibrant community is reflected by how many refer to it as “living on campus”. Without the need to work or dedicate themselves to household upkeep, clearly their new lifestyle is reminiscent of their lighthearted college.

When faced with the responsibility of choosing the ideal living arrangement for a family member, its important to understand it by no means need be a daunting, stressful task. Fortunately, there are a wide range of options available in todays adult-living market, many of which offer both independent and assisted options within the same community. 

You and your loved one can begin this new chapter in a rich life by living independently while knowing that new levels of assistance are there if they need them.