What is Independent Living for Seniors?

Moving to an independent living community can be a concept people often associate with the loss of home and routine due to declining health. Senior adults have options when it comes to selecting the type of community and care they can receive when they elect to make the move.

While independent and assisted living communities each serve an important purpose to senior adults, there are many discrepancies separating the two – health status, activity level, services provided and available, as well as cost and amenities, just to name a few. In this blog, we’ll delve into those differences and break down the costs associated with independent living.

What is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

The National Center for Assisted Living (NCAL) defines assisted living as “a long-term care option preferred by many individuals who typically need help with everyday activities and some health care services but typically do not require 24-hour skilled nursing care services for extended periods of time.” Services provided for those living in assisted living communities usually include regular housekeeping, three meals a day, assistance with activities of daily living, also known as ADLs, like grooming or bathing, and some form of nursing care.

Independent living, however, is a residential community exclusively for older adults, usually 55 or older, geared towards active senior adults in relatively good health who no longer want the burden of homeownership.

Life in an independent living community is comparable to living in an apartment complex or at an all-inclusive resort — it’s just like living at home with the added benefit of optional planned social activities, on-site amenities — like fitness centers and beauty salons — and more. Independent living communities typically do not have any form of care provided and, essentially, come with no lifestyle change for those who choose to live in them.

What is the Average Cost of Senior Independent Living?

Independent living costs vary depending on the location and amenities provided by the community you select. According to SeniorLiving.org, the median monthly cost for independent living communities in the United States is $3,065. In most cases, this monthly cost is an all-inclusive fee including rent, utilities, and community amenities. In luxury independent senior living communities, this can include extras like full meal plans, light housekeeping, personal trainers or group fitness classes, swimming pools, movie theaters and transportation.

When considering making the jump from life at home to an independent living community, some have a difficult time justifying the cost. What many don’t realize is just how expensive everyday life is. Moving into an independent living community can potentially save you money on:

  • Rent or mortgage
  • Utilities
  • Transportation
  • Groceries
  • Lawncare
  • Restaurants
  • Additional entertainment

If you or someone in your life is looking to make the transition to independent living, be sure to ask about the cost breakdown for any communities of interest, including:

  • Are all your amenities included in my rent?
  • What additional monthly costs might I expect from your community?
  • Are there annual rent increases, and if so, what percentage should I expect?
  • Is this a pet-friendly community? If so, is there a pet deposit and/or additional pet rent?

Does Medicaid Pay for Independent Living?

Medicare and Medicaid will not pay for independent living. However, there are still a few options to consider to offset the cost. Long-term care insurance, depending on the policy, can help pay for specific types of senior living, including parts of independent living if you need additional care. According to Josh Hodges, National Council on Aging Chief Customer Officer, you should, “Keep in mind every long-term care insurer has its own rules and requirements for providing benefits. That’s why it’s essential to read the fine print. Review the terms of your current or potential policy to find out the ‘who, where, what, and when’ of its coverage.”

If long-term care insurance is not an option, life insurance might be. Many senior policyholders utilize their life insurance policy to fund independent living by selling the policy, surrendering it in exchange for its cash value, or setting up a living benefit program, which allows seniors to use some life insurance funds while preserving the rest for family members at the time of their death. Contact your insurance company to understand specific regulations and details of utilizing your life insurance policy in this way.

If neither of these methods is an option, like most, paying for independent living comes down to personal finances. This can include utilizing pensions, retirement accounts, and investments. Some senior adults sell their homes to fund the transition. Whatever you may decide, independent living communities offer a fulfilling living experience while also allowing you to retain full autonomy over your life.

Independent living is coming to Heritage Pointe soon. Nestled in the heart of beautiful Mission Viejo, Heritage Pointe is southern California’s most sought out senior living community. Get in touch with us to learn more about the vibrant community you could be part of.