A Helpful Guide from AssistedLiving.org, Part 2
As older adults picture their retirement years, and plan for how to enjoy a leisurely lifestyle with time for hobbies, friends and family, independent living is a great solution. Designed for active seniors, these communities allow them to keep their independence and privacy, while also enjoying services and amenities to make their lives easier.
In this 2nd part, we will review important factors like services and cost, and provide answers to frequently asked questions to help you decide if independent living is the right choice for you or your loved one.
(If you missed Part 1, go back to learn the basic definition of Independent Living and its services, as well as exploring answers to “Frequently Asked Questions.”)
Who Is a Good Fit for Independent Living?
With so many types of senior living available, it can be difficult to understand which community type is the best fit for you or your loved one. We’ve made the decision easier by identifying some of the common qualities of independent living residents. Some of the people who should consider independent living include:
- Seniors who do not need assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs), like bathing, dressing and medication management
- Seniors who do not need medical assistance on a regular basis
- Seniors who want assistance with cooking and home maintenance, but are not ready to give up their independent lifestyle
- Seniors who live alone or feel isolated and would like to meet others through social and recreational activities
- Seniors who are retired and ready to live a more laid back, convenient lifestyle
- Seniors who desire the safety net of a 24-hour staff who can quickly provide help if needed
Seniors Who Should Consider Other Types of Senior Living
Independent living communities are not the right choice for everyone. In situations when the senior needs help with ADLs or access to medical care, they should consider another type of senior living. Below, we describe some alternative options.
- Seniors who need help with their ADLs or have an in-home caregiver should consider assisted living. Assisted living facilities are geared towards seniors who still enjoy social and recreational activities, which makes it a great option for those seeking to maintain an active lifestyle.
- Nursing homes are a good fit for seniors who need regular medical care or have high-level medical needs. These skilled nursing facilities are staffed with professionals that provide 24/7 care to seniors, including assistance with their ADLs.
- Seniors who are living with Alzheimer’s or dementia are better suited for a memory care community. These facilities provide expertise and personal care specifically designed for those living with memory impairment.
Independent Living Costs
Independent living costs can vary dramatically depending on where you live and the specific community. Retirement communities that offer ample amenities and include the cost of meals in their monthly price will be much more expensive than basic senior apartments. One thing that is consistent is that independent living is the least expensive type of senior care because it does not offer personal care assistance and health services. In general, independent living will cost 30-50% less per month than assisted living.
Financial Assistance Options for Independent Living
Many seniors live on fixed incomes. Even with programs like Social Security, seniors’ income is often not enough to cover the cost of housing and living expenses. To help, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) subsidizes senior housing complexes by reducing rent for low-income seniors. Visit the HUD resources website to easily search an area for low-income senior housing. These complexes often have long waiting lists and strict criteria for residency, so it is essential to plan ahead.
Additionally, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) allocates part of its annual budget to senior service programs each year. These funds are used to pay for home and community-based services at local, non-residential senior centers. Some of these services include meal and nutrition programs, fitness programs, transportation, social activities, employment assistance and more.
What to Consider When Choosing an Independent Living Community
There are many factors to consider when looking into an independent living community. Below, we break down the three main categories to focus on and specific questions to ask as you make your decision.
Social and Recreational Opportunities
The abundance of social and recreational activities is one factor that sets independent living apart from other senior living communities. Retired seniors in good health want to make the most of their “golden years,” enjoying hobbies and extra time with friends. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that a community offers a variety of scheduled activities for all interests. If you’re unsure, ask the following questions:
- Request to look at the community’s monthly calendar. How often are social and recreational activities planned for the residents?
- Does the monthly calendar include activities to keep residents in good physical and mental shape, like yoga class or card games?
- Is there a mix of onsite and offsite activities scheduled?
- Does the community have meeting spaces to promote social interaction, like living rooms, porches, and a communal dining room?
- When visiting, do you see residents interacting with each other, or do people mostly keep to themselves?
- Do residents regularly celebrate holidays and birthdays together?
- Do residents participate in and enjoy the planned activities?
Convenience Services and Amenities
In addition to the social calendar, seniors seeking independent living should consider the caliber of a community’s services and amenities before moving in. Now is the time to think about what is most important to you. Perhaps you are really looking forward to dropping the responsibilities of house cleaning and laundry, or you can’t imagine life without playing a round of tennis most mornings. Take some time to decide which services and amenities are your must-haves. Here are some questions to get you started:
- How often does the community offer home or apartment cleanings? What is included in the cleaning (vacuuming, dusting, etc.)?
- Do any convenience services, like laundry, cost extra?
- Are the onsite amenities like the fitness center and pool well maintained and clean?
- What entertainment or lifestyle extras are available (beauty salon, movie theater room, general store, etc.)?
- How quickly are items in the home or apartment fixed if there is an issue? Is there an onsite maintenance team?
- Does the community have enough staff to support their services and amenities?
- Is the staff resident-focused? Are they available to ensure the residents’ convenience and comfort? Do they go the extra mile?
The dining experience is a large factor to consider when researching independent living communities. Residents often want to maintain their independence when it comes to food choices, meal times and dining environment. When thinking over your options, look for communities that offer flexible dining services to meet your changing needs. We’ve highlighted a few considerations below:
- What type of dining packages are offered, and what is the cost? Do you pay a monthly fee for three meals a day, or can you opt-in to only one or two meals a day?
- Does the community offer restaurant-like dining with daily meal choices, or are the residents served the same meal with limited opportunity for alternatives?
- Some communities include residents in meal planning and take special requests, so ask about how involved you can be in deciding what goes on the menu. If you have any dietary restrictions such as a low-sodium or gluten-free diet, make sure to ask if the kitchen will accommodate.
- Is there a qualified dietician on staff to assist in creating the menus?
- Ask if you can stay to enjoy a meal when taking your community tour. Be sure to consider the meal’s overall taste, use of fresh ingredients and nutritional value.
- Does the dining room have a floor plan that encourages residents to relax, socialize and enjoy their food? Are residents encouraged to eat in the dining room?
- Verify dining hours so you know when meals are served and if you’ll be able to order off a menu during non-meal hours, as well as what snacks are served and when.
Did you miss PART 1? Go back to review the following points from our friends at AssistedLiving.org
- What Is Independent Living?
- Independent Living Services and Amenities
- Frequently Asked Questions
This helpful guide was provided by the Assisted Living Team. Here’s a message, directly from them on WHY they do what they do.
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