The terms “Assisted Living” and “Independent Living appear to be self-defining, but many seniors and their families confuse the two. That’s because these retirement living options generally have several features in common — a supportive, safe and secure environment, prepared meals, transportation services, recreational activities, social events, and on-site healthcare.
Choosing between the two generally comes down to the person’s ability to manage daily activities without extra assistance. Daily activities include tasks like preparing meals, bathing and toileting, taking medications correctly, managing household chores, driving, and keeping up with personal finances.
Individuals who can still perform all or most of the activities of daily living without assistance are a good fit for Independent Living. In general, retirement communities offer countless amenities for an enjoyable lifestyle that promotes healthy aging, so let’s take a look at the benefits that both offer.
Independent living — the ultimate freedom
One of the most common phrases heard from seniors who move into Independent Living residences is, “I wish I’d moved here sooner!”
For the first time in decades, these residents are free from many of the responsibilities of daily life, like house cleaning, home and yard maintenance, and cooking three meals a day. They have also escaped the social isolation many experience while living at home alone, and they find the easy availability of friendships refreshing, even exhilarating.
Independent residents also cherish another freedom that retirement communities offer — freedom from worry about safety. Living at home, especially alone, creates concerns of all kinds. How would I get help if I fall or become ill? Am I safe here at night? How will I meet my needs if I give up driving?
Moving into an Independent Living residence eliminates the need to worry about safety. With 24-hour security, residents can relax and gain peace of mind. In addition, these communities have staff members available at any time to assist with medical emergencies and other needs.
Safety among a community of friends appeals to many seniors, but they also find that other amenities offered by the community enhance their lives in ways they rarely imagined possible. Given regular opportunities to attend parties, play games, take up new hobbies, exercise, and share meals with friends — residents in retirement communities have the ability to live life to the fullest.
Many communities feature on-site fitness centers with pools, tennis courts, and walking/jogging trails. They can include social clubs, restaurants, and billiard rooms. Some offer shuttle services to local shopping and entertainment venues, and many provide a variety of educational and cultural programs, including cooking classes, art classes, and lectures by guest speakers..
The best way to envision Independent Living is to think back to your high school days. You have a car, or readily available transportation services, and can go anywhere you choose. You have a fully furnished kitchen in your home and can cook when you feel like it, or you can join friends in the dining room for a meal. You have parties and events to attend, and a wealth of activities to enjoy, and almost everything you need in life is taken care of by others. With this vision in mind, is it any wonder why the second most common phrase from Independent Living residents is, “I feel like a kid again!”
How does Independent Living work, and who pays for it?
Independent living is a lifestyle choice for seniors who want to live in their own homes or apartments without the assistance of family, friends, or paid caregivers. Depending on the resources available, there are several different ways to finance Independent Living.
Generally, seniors rely on the nest egg of savings they have built over many decades. The nest egg can include home equity, liquid savings, pensions, and investment income. It can also include income from Social Security.
Independent Living communities can be operated by for-profit or not-for-profit organizations. Some operate on an entry-fee model, while others rely on a rental model. In entry-fee communities, individuals pay an upfront “entrance fee,” and also a monthly fee to cover the cost of operational expenses. By contrast, a rental community is exactly as it sounds. Seniors simply pay a monthly rent to help cover the community’s operational costs.
Entry-fee communities are often referred to as “Life Plan Communities.” They use the upfront fee as a fund that can partially offset the cost of increased levels of care as the senior ages. In a rental community, seniors will pay the existing market rate if they need to move to a higher level of care.
It is important to note that Independent Living communities do not provide the same level of care as Assisted Living, and since needs change as most of us age, it’s important to compare rental versus entry-fee options in light of the future cost of a higher level of care. In general, Independent Living costs less than traditional Skilled Nursing Facilities or Assisted Living communities.
If a senior lacks the financial ability to consider an entry-fee community or any of the rental communities in the area, there are government programs that fund rental communities for individuals and couples with limited financial means. Some receive funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which provides subsidies for low-income seniors. In addition, these communities may charge monthly fees to cover the cost of extra amenities and services.
The top 5 reasons to choose an Independent Living community
Most Independent Living communities can be the perfect solution for seniors who value their independence. Here are the top five reasons to choose an Independent Living community:
- Freedom and flexibility
Independent living communities offer a high degree of freedom and flexibility, allowing residents to live independently while still having access to supportive services as needed.
There are many causes for social isolation among seniors — the loss of a spouse, living among neighbors who have busy families and no time to visit, children and other relatives who live far away. Some seniors feel less confident about driving and this can limit getting together with others.
Independent living communities provide ample opportunities for social interaction, from group activities to shared meals, to opportunities for everyday interactions with staff and other residents.
- Maintenance-free living
Independent living communities take care of home maintenance hassles, from lawn care to housekeeping, to repairs and renovations. This frees residents to enjoy their retirement without worrying about the day-to-day home chores.
- Personalized care
Independent living communities offer tailored care services that can be customized to meet each individual’s needs and preferences. Independent living communities provide services that seniors need to maintain their independence.
- A sense of community
Social opportunities create a true sense of community, with staff and fellow residents invested in maintaining a supportive and enriching environment. It fosters peace of mind for seniors who age in a place surrounded by friends and familiar faces. Residents rally to support each other in good times and bad.
Assisted living — a helping hand when needed
Assisted Living provides a different kind of freedom. In Assisted Living communities, seniors who struggle to manage the activities of daily living can find the freedom to enjoy life again. The important point to remember about Assisted Living is it provides a helping hand when needed. Assisted Living communities provide a supportive and safe environment where seniors may live as independently as possible while also having access to supportive services.
Support services can include transportation, help with medication management, and help with bathing, dressing, and other activities of daily living. Many communities maintain on-site medical and rehab facilities to help residents stay healthy and mobile. In addition, Assisted Living communities offer amenities that can make life comfortable and carefree, such as housekeeping, laundry service, and nutritious meals.
Residents in Assisted Living will discover a variety of activities and entertainment that make life fun and fulfilling. Many communities offer opportunities for residents to socialize with their peers at game nights, movie nights, parties and group outings.
Many communities include wellness centers, activity rooms, and shared common areas and outdoor gardens where residents can spend time visiting with friends. Others feature kitchen areas that allow residents to participate in cooking activities.
You’ll also find on-site exercise rooms, hair salons, and libraries. These amenities create an especially convenient living environment for residents.
All told, Assisted Living can provide peace of mind to both residents and their families. Seniors who struggle to complete daily living tasks can now relax and so can their families, knowing that their loved ones are being cared for in a supportive and safe environment.
How does Assisted Living work, and who pays for it?
Assisted Living communities operate on a private-pay model, much like the Independent Living rental community. Residents pay a monthly service fee, which they must fund themselves. It comes as a shock to many to learn that Medicare or Medicaid will not cover the cost of Assisted Living.
Instead, Assisted Living residents must rely on their nest egg of savings, pensions, Social Security income, and investment income to meet the monthly expense. Those who planned ahead by purchasing long-term care insurance are generally able to collect monthly payments from these policies to help offset the cost.
It is crucial to note that the cost of Assisted Living can vary; it depends on the community type, location, and the required level of care. Planning ahead for the aging years by setting aside funds and purchasing long-term care insurance is a smart move in preparing for the needs of senior living.
The top 5 reasons to choose an Assisted Living community
Opting for an Assisted Living community doesn’t have to be a difficult decision. There are many reasons why an it may be the best choice for you or your loved one. Here are 5 reasons to consider:
- Social opportunities.
If you or your loved one feels isolated and lonely due to an inability to drive, children who live out of the area, or loss of a spouse, an Assisted Living community can provide much-needed socialization and a sense of community. Regular social activities can make a tremendous difference in the mental health of seniors.
- Help with activities of daily living.
Assisted Living communities provide necessary support to seniors who struggle with completing activities of daily living.. Trained staff members can assist as needed while still respecting each individual’s privacy and independence.
- Peace of mind.
Having trained professionals within the community to provide assistance 24 hours a day gives residents the safety and security they need to relax and enjoy life. Families gain peace of mind as well. Many communities offer security features such as electronic key fobs or alarms to help further ensure safety.
- Specialized care.
An Assisted Living community may be the best option if you or your loved one has specific care needs, such as memory care or hospice care. These communities employ specially trained staff members and supply the necessary medical equipment.
- Customized living.
When you choose an Assisted Living community, you’ll have the opportunity to select a floor plan and amenities that meet your specific needs and preferences. You’ll also be able to choose how much assistance you need, whether it’s just a little bit or around-the-clock care.
How can you tell if an Independent or Assisted Living community is right for you or your loved one?
The choice between Independent Living and Assisted Living depends on both financial resources and timing. Many residents in Assisted Living often say they wish they had moved to Independent Living first, while they were still able to enjoy the many activities offered. In the end, this may well be the biggest difference between Assisted Living and Independent Living.
Regardless of which choice you determine is the best fit, there are general considerations that apply to either community:
Does the community offer the level of care you need?
An Assisted Living community may be a better fit if you’re looking for a higher level of support services. On the other hand, an Independent Living community may be a better option if you’re living independently and can complete most or all tasks of daily living with little or no assistance.
What is the community’s atmosphere like?
Do you feel welcome and comfortable when you visit? Do the Independent Living residents seem happy? Is the staff friendly and helpful? These are key factors in choosing a community.
What amenities does the community offer?
Are there plenty of activities and social events? Are the common areas well-maintained? Is transportation available? Again, these are all important factors to consider.
What is the cost of living in the community?
Can you afford the monthly fee? Are there any hidden costs? Make sure you understand all of the financial details before making a decision.
Choosing an Independent Living or Assisted Living community is a big decision. There’s no easy answer, but by considering these factors, you can make sure you choose the proper community for you or your loved one.
The Club: Life-Affirming Assisted Living in Boynton Beach
Regardless of age or ability, The Club at Boynton Beach provides an environment where residents can live life to the fullest.
With modern amenities, purposeful programming, and supportive services to help residents meet their health and wellness goals, The Club is more than just a place to live — it’s a community designed to help residents thrive.
The Club also offers specialized care services for residents with memory impairments or other cognitive challenges. Contact us today to learn how The Club can help you or your loved one live a healthy, happy, and independent life.