In today's senior living community, there are a number of housing options available that can provide seniors with the ideal environment to enjoy their golden years. Every senior is unique, just as every situation is unique, which means that different seniors may benefit from different types of care situations.
For many seniors who are first transitioning to life in a senior living community, it can be confusing to navigate all of the available senior housing options. One of the biggest decisions that seniors tend to make is between independent living communities and assisted living communities. While these two housing options do have some similarities they are actually quite different when it comes to what they can offer seniors. Understanding these differences is the key to helping any senior and their family determine what type of living community best fits their needs.
The differences typically come down to how much care that particular senior needs and how capable that senior is when it comes to managing daily activities without any extra help.
As the name suggests, independent living communities are designed for seniors age 55 and older who still want to live independently, but want to have access to help when they decide they need it. Typically, these communities are essentially large apartment complexes or even communities with individual townhomes and condominiums, that provide seniors with access to different features, while allowing their residents to choose whether or not they want to take advantage of these amenities.
Typically, communities will have convenient access to dining, entertainment, medical care and more. Many communities also offer residents with access to hospitality services including laundry, housekeeping and even access to meals. These extras can be included in monthly rent, or come as a separate charge, depending on the individual community. Since these amenities are available if seniors want them, many older adults will begin in an independent living community before they transition to an assisted living one.
The key defining characteristic of an independent living community is that while it may offer a number of amenities and features that seniors can take advantage of, it is meant for seniors who don't necessarily need these amenities. A senior who is ready to move to assisted living should be able to continue living safely on their own in their own home. In fact, most seniors who choose to move to independent living communities have been safe, happy and healthy in their own homes, and decided to move to independent living so they can enjoy life in a smaller home and in a community near their peers.
One of the biggest perks of independent living communities is that they provide an atmosphere that is interactive, safe and healthy for seniors, so that they can age comfortably in an environment where they have support where they need it. In fact, many studies have found that seniors who live in independent living communities, instead of staying at home by themselves are much less likely to deal with problems related to loneliness, isolation and depression.
While independent living communities focus on allowing seniors to live entirely on their own, assisted living communities are much more focused on the different amenities that they can offer their senior residents. These facilities are designed specifically for individuals who have challenges with their daily activities. In other words, these communities are for seniors who cannot live independently on their own.
An assisted living community is not a nursing home. In fact, many seniors who are in assisted living communities do not require any type of medical attention. Instead seniors at these facilities are fee to live as independent of a lifestyle that they can. However, they can also receive regular support, as needed for a range of everyday activities.
For some seniors, this just means getting help with cooking and cleaning. For others, it may mean assistance with bathing, grooming and dressing. This is why assisted living communities offer so many different services, such as:
- Laundry services
- Transportation services
- Medication management
- Grooming assistance
- Bathing assistance
- Off-campus trips
- And more!
For seniors who are hesitant to give up their independence, they will be happy to find that many of these communities come with large apartments for seniors to choose from so they can still have all of the comforts of home. Most of these communities also have a calendar full of events that seniors can choose to participate in, or not participate in at their leisure. For many, the biggest benefit of these communities lies in the social aspect. Clubs, outings, games and community activities can all help seniors feel welcomed while forming lasting friendships in their new homes.
How to Choose the Right Community
There is no one right type of living community and many seniors will find some communities actually offer both assisted and independent living options within their community, so that they can adjust to the changing lifestyle needs of each senior. Every community is different and every community offers different amenities and varying levels of care. The best way to choose which community is the right one is to visit them in person and find a facility that meets the specific needs of the specific senior who needs care.
One of the best ways to make the right decision about a senior living community is to think about the seniors future needs. There are many seniors who are able to live independently when they first move to a community but who may need assistance within the next year or so. There are also many seniors who will move directly to assisted living, knowing that within several months they will need to take care of some of the services that these communities offer. Planning for the future to ensure that seniors have everything they need as they age is one of the smartest ways to make the best choice about any new senior living community.