← Back to Blog

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

A senior couple in independent living enjoying their retirement years.

The world of senior living can feel overwhelming as you begin to explore your options. What levels of living are available? What are the differences between independent living and assisted living? Will I need care a few years down the road? (The answer to the last question is, probably. About 2 out of 3 seniors become physically or cognitively impaired during their lifetime.)

Even if you’re completely healthy and active now, there are benefits to moving out of your house and into a community with independent living — especially if that community offers higher levels of care you may need in the future. This blog post explores the differences between independent living and assisted living, and the benefits of each. 

Understanding Independent Living at a Retirement Community

At a retirement community, independent living is exactly what it sounds like. You’ll: 

  • Live as you like and direct your own life.
  • Adhere to your own schedule.
  • Participate in all, some or none of the community activities. It’s always your choice.
  • Enjoy campus life one day; go off-campus for meals and entertainment the next.
  • Travel without worry. 

 So why make the move? The overarching benefit to choosing independent living can be summed up in one word: Liberation.

While your house undoubtedly holds cherished memories, most older adults find themselves with rooms — even whole floors — they no longer use. Closets, attics, basements and spare bedrooms are often full of possessions they haven’t seen in years. The family house, once a sanctuary, can become a burden. Cleaning, meal prep, repairs, yardwork — you may think you’re retired, but this is work that never ends. Independent living to the rescue!

Here are five attributes and advantages of independent living:

  1. No more home maintenance. The burdens of homeownership will become someone else’s responsibility. Inside and out, your new home will be maintained, repaired and landscaped by the community. Clogged drain? Torn screen? Snow on the sidewalk? Pick up the phone and a staff member (someone you probably know by name) will be there to make it right.
  2. Financially inclusive. At many communities, your monthly fee for independent living covers residency, most utility bills and property taxes, and a set number of meals. Campus events, entertainment and activities are also included, as is access to community fitness centers and classes. Be sure to review your contract and ask questions about what is and isn’t included.
  3. Staff and service. Friendly and trained to be helpful, community staff members are there to make each day convenient and pleasant. Some communities even have a formalized concierge program to make your life easier. 
  4. Social benefits. Even if you’re a healthy independent senior, studies show older adults are at risk of isolation, which can lead to serious health problems. Community life is a perfect solution. You’ll enjoy group activities, meet dining companions, and become friends with new neighbors. Social interaction is one of the most important advantages of living in a retirement community.
  5. Dietary success. Healthy meal preparation becomes more of a burden as we age — it’s so easy to pop a frozen meal in the microwave. At a community, you’ll have access to nutritious, balanced chef-planned meals. The best communities will accommodate an individual’s dietary needs. Additionally, communal mealtimes are fun social occasions you’ll enjoy daily.

The Benefits of Assisted Living in a Community

There’s a misperception that an assisted living community is a place to decline. Nothing could be further from the truth. The primary purpose of choosing assisted living care is to regain independence and enjoy life more. Here’s what to expect when choosing assisted living for yourself or a loved one.

In general, assisted living includes everything you’ll find in independent living, with important services added to manage the activities of daily living, often called ADLs. Typically, this will include help with the following:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Medication management
  • Meal preparation and dining

With ADLs successfully accomplished, you or your loved one will more easily move on to pursue favorite hobbies, activities and social engagements.

So what are the differences between independent living and assisted living? Aside from the services listed above, there aren’t too many. Here are a few:

  • Assisted living residences are usually comfortable and private apartment homes, whereas independent living residents may have the choice of a larger villa home. 
  • Sometimes (not always) assisted living residents will live in an area of the community dedicated to those services, making the assistance more accessible and convenient. Even when this is the case, assisted living residents typically have access to the full array of community amenities.
  • Assisted living residents may have programming and activities appropriately suited to their abilities. But again, access to all community amenities and events is usually available.

Get the Information You Need from Grace Ridge

At Grace Ridge, residents live in a beautiful location with independent living, assisted living and a full continuum of care available on-site. To understand the full offerings within every level of living, please contact us today. We’d love to connect and help you find the perfect fit.