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What is the difference between a Senior Living Community and an Independent Living Community?

Jun 8, 2016

What is the difference between a Senior Living Community and an Independent Living Community?

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A senior living community is a generalized term that includes many different types of senior care and housing. Senior living communities include independent living, assisted living, retirement communities, nursing homes, care homes, and memory care. The terms senior living community is the main heading to encompass the variety of senior communities. While independent living is a subheading that is a specific type of senior living. Below are brief introductions of each type of senior living community.

Independent Living Community

Independent living communities are retirement communities for active seniors who wish to have less responsibility in their daily lives. Independent living provides care for active seniors who do not require assistance or little assistance. The seniors who join an independent living community desire an environment where they will not have to worry about safety, maintenance or home ownership.

There are a variety of types of housing including studio apartments to large two-bedroom housing. Typically, the communities offer entertainment options and meal plans the resident may choose from. Though most will not need assistance or daily care, the services are there for emergency purposes. Independent living communities have been compared to all-inclusive resorts due to the services provided, the housing, and entertainment options available.

Other Senior Living Options

Assisted Living

Assisted living is for seniors who need help with activities of daily living, but still have the freedom to choose their activities, meals, and entertainment options. Residents need help with services such as meal preparation, dressing, bathing, toileting, and other activities. The communities are similar to apartment complexes with shared common areas, though the type of housing varies from each community. The national median cost for assisted living communities is $3,600 per month. The costs may vary depending on the type and size of housing, types of services needed, and the location.

Retirement Communities

Retirement communities include different types of retirement options such as senior apartments, 55+ retirement communities, independent living communities, and continuing care communities. Retirement communities in general means housing for active seniors who need little or no assistance.

Senior apartments are just clusters of apartment buildings that share common areas and usually do not offer any assistance. 55+ retirement communities are homes or apartments for senior over the age of 55 and do not have to worry about maintenance of their home. Again, independent living is for active seniors who do not require assistance and do not want to worry about home ownership. Continuing care communities are full of services that begin with independent living up to hospice care; it includes all the care you will need for the rest of your life.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are facilities that provide 24-hour medical care for seniors and provide services that assist residents with activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating. Nursing homes offer services such as housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, transportation, and other skilled nursing services. The typical, national median cost of a nursing home for a semi-private room is $220 per day and for a private room is $250 per day.

Care Homes

A care home provides room and board, along with assistance with activities of daily living. Care homes are also called adult family homes, board and care homes, residential or personal care homes. Care homes are more personal than other care facilities and can have their own rooms while sharing common areas. Residents can also have pets and couples can be together in one room. Usually, care homes are for those who have mental disabilities, are not mobile or need help with activities of daily living. Care homes can have a cost range from $1,500 to $4,500 per month. But the cost may vary depending on the size and type of room; private rooms are more expensive than semi-private rooms.

Memory Care

Alzheimer’s or memory care is typically in an assisted living or nursing home facility with residents in their own wing or floor. Memory care provides services for those who have memory illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Services include housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, and a higher level of assistance with activities of daily living. Due to the high risk of residents wandering, there are security alarms on doors, safety checks and other techniques to ensure the safety of the senior.

The staff members try to incorporate activities to allow the individual residents to connect to favorite hobbies that previously enjoyed. Typically the costs for memory care can be between $1,500 up to $7,000 per month. But the costs depend on the level of care, size and type of the room, and the location of the community.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the difference between independent living and assisted living?

Independent living communities are available to seniors who are still healthy enough to live on their own schedules. Most independent living communities still offer assistance with things like housekeeping and other custodial tasks, however, they don't usually provide very in-depth medical care. Assisted living is more for seniors who require daily assistance with their tasks, but aren't ready for full-fledged skilled nursing care. This can include help with personal hygiene, medication management, or things like memory care for dementia and Alzheimer's patients. 

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How much does independent living cost?

Based on the location and size of the apartment, costs for independent living facilities range from $1,500 to $3,500 a month on average. Depending on the available amenities, this can be quite the bargain for many people – especially for those with depleting funds.

Medicaid and Medicare don’t usually cover independent living, although it’s possible to receive coverage for in-home care after moving into a community. Long-term care insurance may also cover certain costs depending on your policy, however, it’s most common for people to pay out-of-pocket at least the first several years.

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