Independent living communities have become common living options for adults aged 55 years and above. The housing style varies from standalone houses in a neighborhood to apartment-style blocks. The houses are typically more compact, easier to navigate, and have fewer maintenance needs, making them ideal for older adults.
In these communities, residents live independently (i.e. in their own homes), but the community offers group activities, amenities, and assistance services depending on the needs of each resident. Some amenities include swimming pools or fitness centers, recreation areas for arts and crafts or games, sports grounds, and other clubs/interests/hobbies. The services often include meal preparation/dining rooms, basic housekeeping, laundry services and salons and barbershops, among others.
According to census data, there are more than 73 million Baby Boomers, all of whom will be 65 years or older by 2030. Therefore, many families will need to understand their options for taking care of aging relatives in the coming decade.
Let’s learn how independent living can work to support older adults without taking away their much-deserved independence.
Types of Independent Living Communities
There are several types of independent living facilities, including:
- Subsidized/low-cost senior housing – housing complexes provided by the government for low-income seniors
- Congregate care housing – senior apartment complexes restricted by age from 55-62 and higher. Rent includes communal activities and recreational programs, and meals are served in a common dining area.
- Retirement communities – housing units that may be townhouses, condos, single-family homes, duplexes, or apartment complexes, still restricted by age. You can buy a unit, but there’s a monthly charge that covers maintenance, recreational activities, or assisted services.
- Continuing care retirement communities – CCRCs are for seniors who are still healthy but understand the chance for declining health conditions in the future. They offer a spectrum of services, from independent living to skilled nursing care. CCRCs allow residents to age in place and receive the requisite care within the same community as their needs change. Independence is maintained as long as possible and no relocation is necessary.
The key difference between independent living communities and other housing options such as assisted living is the level of assistance you’ll have for daily activities. You should only consider independent living if you can reasonably care for yourself or self and spouse presently.
Benefits of Independent Living
Any transitional stage comes with its unique circumstances, considerations, and associated tasks. If you’re thinking about transitioning to senior living as an older adult, you’ll need to conduct thorough research, and realistically evaluate your present and future needs before making your decision. That said, the following benefits can fill your pro column if you’re considering independent living:
Emotional Support and Human Connection
Independent living communities bring together older adults within the same age bracket. The opportunity to join group activities and socialize improves the quality of life, particularly for those who are transitioning from bustling work life into retirement or those whose families are far away. You’ll meet neighbors and those who share your interests and hobbies, developing powerful friendships and helping to support each other as you age.
Hobbies and Activities
Most communities create spaces for socializing as well as activities to gainfully occupy the time. If you’re used to being active or you have hobbies, you don’t have to give them up when moving into independent living communities. You’ll be pleased to find games, book clubs, arts and crafts, gym/fitness plans, continuing education classes, support groups, and other social functions to keep you occupied.
Security and Freedom
Independent living communities allow you the freedom to have your own space where you can still come and go as you wish. You can furnish your space according to your tastes and needs, and remain there as long as you want to.
Meanwhile, you enjoy the security of being inside a community/neighborhood with peers, rather than being alone in your old home. You enjoy the security provided by the community without losing your own privacy. Plus, you don’t have to worry about mowing the lawn, shoveling the driveway, or conducting any home repair.
Independent living communities have systems providing assistance for activities that older adults have difficulty with. You can downsize your home to reduce cleaning and maintenance costs and tasks, but you can get basic housekeeping (cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc.), transportation and errand assistance, healthcare at home, activity planning, landscaping, and other services you need. In case of emergencies, you can get assistance quickly.
Is Independent Living Right for Me?
Older adults struggle with making the transition out of the home/neighborhood/space they’ve known most of their working life. This is entirely normal, and you should take your time before making any big changes. Independent living allows you the perfect blend of maintaining your independence while surrounding you with ample socialization opportunities, which is why most seniors transition to it.
Before deciding whether senior independent living communities are right for you, ask yourself these questions:
Can I maintain my home now?
Home maintenance becomes a burden the older you grow, and all the space that was ideal when the family was young becomes extra work and cost when rarely used. This is why many seniors opt to downsize.
Where are your family and friends?
Everyone needs the emotional support of friends and family – isolated people are at risk of mental and physical health issues. If your support system is strong and present, you may be able to stay in place. Otherwise, you should consider moving into a structured community with built-in social support.
Can you get around easily?
If you can still do your things easily – driving, preparing meals, running errands, etc. – you can stay where you are for some time. If, however, you find yourself increasingly dependent on others to help with errands or getting around, consider moving to an independent living community.
How is your health?
Consider you and your spouse’s present and future health. If you have a chronic condition, consider your options carefully depending on your prognosis. If you envision needing only minor assistance for the foreseeable future, independent living would work for you. The benefit of a CCRC is, of course, that you can enjoy independent living now and only transition to a higher level of care when needed.
Understand Your Options
Any move is a big transition, and it can be very stressful for everyone involved. Despite the benefits of independent living communities, you may be reluctant to make the decision to move. You may be anxious about leaving behind what you know and joining a new community, even with all the benefits it promises.
If you’re facing an imminent move, take time to consider all your feelings and grieve for the things you are losing. Get professional help if you feel unable to cope with the feelings of loss. You can also reach out to trusted family members or friends to help you through the transition.
Once you’re there, however, you’ll soon settle into a new way of life that will be easier for you and your loved ones to manage. You’ll be much better for it!
For more information on retirement, read these articles by Acts Retirement-Life Communities: