Independent Living vs Assisted Living: What’s the Best Fit?

Oct 1, 2020

senior couple sitting on a bench

Assisted living and independent living communities offer slightly different services and are designed to meet a wide variety of needs. It can be hard to know which senior living option is best for you or a loved one. Here are a few of the key differences between assisted and independent living.

Daily Amenities & Services

Assisted living helps residents with activities of daily living. While residents usually have a private room or apartment, staff members are available to assist with meals, personal care, medication reminders, laundry, and housekeeping. Most assisted living communities provide meals and facilitate activities for residents. The goal of assisted living communities is to help residents maintain as much independence as possible.

Independent living does not typically provide nursing support or help with daily activities. Instead, the focus of these senior communities is to provide amenities and services for an active life. Without the responsibilities of home maintenance or lawn care, residents are free to pursue various hobbies and interests. Communities usually offer a wide range of dining options, on-site amenities, and activities.

Medical & Supportive Care

In addition to help with daily activities, assisted living residents may receive medication reminders and assistance attending scheduled doctor appointments. While help is available at a moment’s notice, most assisted living residents do not have conditions requiring constant medical attention. On-staff nurses may check-in on residents and evaluate the current level of care and determine if more is needed. Assisted living is ideal for those who are not able to live alone but do not require skilled nursing care. Family members have peace of mind knowing their loved one is living in a secure environment with access to 24/7 assistance.

Independent living residents are able to live alone without assistance from the community’s staff members. While access to medical care is often nearby and easy to access, residents do not typically receive daily medical help unless requested. Assistance is available 24/7 and most senior living communities help residents evaluate if their current level of care is appropriate for their specific needs.

Living Spaces

Assisted living homes are often cozy single or double rooms. Meals, housekeeping, and laundry services are typically included in the cost of assisted living. Less expensive than nursing homes or in-home care, assisted living rates are calculated based on an individual resident’s needs. Because residents live near one another and frequently interact with staff, assisted living facilities are often characterized by a strong sense of community.

Independent living homes are apartments or even condos. After an initial entrance fee, independent living residents pay a monthly service fee covering all services and utilities. While senior living communities offer a variety of floor plans, most homes include a full kitchen and appliances. Residents are generally able to perform housekeeping tasks without assistance and have more flexibility with meal options (dining in, take-home meals, or onsite cafes or bistros). Independent living residents also have more options for daily activities. They may participate in the community’s events, take advantage of onsite amenities, meet with friends, run errands, or go visit family members. Independent living is ideal for those who would like to enjoy an active lifestyle without the responsibilities of home or property maintenance.

Questions to Ask Yourself (or a Loved One)

It can be hard to know what kind of senior living community is the best fit. Here are a few questions to ask yourself or a loved one.

Would my health be at risk if I had to spend a few days alone in my home?
If yes, then assisted living may be a good fit for you. Residents have access to around-the-clock care.

Am I lonely, but otherwise healthy and able to complete daily activities?
If yes, the sense of community and convenient amenities of independent living could be a good option.

Do I worry that basic activities (bathing, cooking, cleaning) could be dangerous due to a fall or other concerns?
If yes, then help with daily activities in an assisted living community may be a good fit.

Is paying for in-home care a financial burden?
If yes, then assisted living may be a more affordable option.

Has maintaining my home (home repairs, lawn care, snow removal, etc.) significantly interfered with pursuing other activities or hobbies?
If yes, the services and amenities available at an independent living community may be a good fit for your active lifestyle.

Sunset’s Continuum of Care

Of course, you may find your needs falling somewhere between assisted and independent living. Sunset’s Life Plan tailors our wide range of senior living options to fit your needs. Our admissions counselors will meet with you and your family to put together a flexible plan designed to meet your current needs and accommodate any future ones. Contact us to speak with an admissions counselor today.