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Assisted Living vs. Independent Living: What’s the Difference?

Today’s seniors have many options when it comes to where and how to live. Two of the most common senior housing options are assisted living and independent living. But what do these terms mean? What are the differences between assisted living and independent living? Read on to find out.

Independent Living: a Community of Peers

senior couple in independent living

Life in an independent living community will be familiar to anyone who’s ever owned a condo or been a member of an HOA. Membership often includes landscaping, housekeeping, and maintenance. In addition, there are often shared entertainment and social facilities, such as swimming pools, fitness rooms, and clubhouses.

Independent living includes a wide range of housing options. Some communities feature fully detached houses situated along quiet residential streets. Others are arranged as housing co-ops or apartments.

Independent living communities go by a variety of names. You may also hear them referred to as retirement communities, active adult communities, or 55+ communities.

You might wonder why an adult who can take care of himself or herself would move to a retirement village. Why not just keep living at home? As we age, the responsibilities associated with homeownership become more of a chore. In a retirement community, there’s no need to worry about mowing the lawn, cleaning out the gutters in the fall, or painting the eaves.

Plus, independent living offers the benefit of living among other seniors. Life can be lonely for older folks whose neighborhood friends have moved away. In a senior community, there are plenty of potential new friends and lots of places to socialize.

(Learn a lot more about independent living in’s Independent Living Guide.)

Need a Little Help? Consider Assisted Living

older woman in assisted living

Assisted living is best for seniors who could use some help with daily activities like getting dressed, bathing, grooming, and keeping track of medications. These services are generally not provided for residents of independent living communities.

You may also hear assisted living facilities referred to as senior group homes, personal care homes, or residential care homes.

Housing in assisted living is typically arranged like an apartment building. Residents have easy access to included services such as dining, social activities, on-site salons and transportation. Some units may feature kitchenettes. In addition, assisted living homes typically provide emergency call systems.

Like independent living communities, assisted living offers excellent opportunities to socialize. Residents gather for classes, card games, shopping trips, and movie nights. Visiting a new friend might be as easy as walking down the hallway. And, of course, there’s no need to deal with the upkeep of home ownership.

(Learn a lot more about assisted living in’s Assisted Living Guide.)

What About Senior Living Costs?

The cost of renting in an independent living community varies widely. In housing markets where rent is generally expensive, you can expect retirement living to cost more as well. Beyond rent, some retirement villages offer extra perks that seniors can choose to pay for or opt out of.

Assisted living communities are available at a wide range of prices. The add-ons in assisted living generally are services that can be selected based on individual needs. According to Argentum, the average cost of living in a one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility is more than $3,000 per month. That cost can be much greater depending on what state you live in.

Independent vs. Assisted Living: Which Is Right for You?

For seniors who have tired of keeping up their homes but are in good health, independent living communities are a very desirable option. They make it easy to socialize and get around, but they eliminate the need for expensive and often difficult home maintenance.

For seniors who need assistance with personal care but are still socially active and engaged, assisted living is likely a better fit. Residents get the helping hand they need but still live relatively independently around plenty of peers.

More in this series:

Assisted Living vs. Memory Care

Assisted Living vs. Nursing Homes

Assisted Living vs. Home Care

Assisted Living Guide

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    1. Margurette Dimitt says:

      Hi I’m new to this. My name is Margurette, I’m looking in to independent living, do you know of any in Kansas around the great bend Hosington area?

    2. I’ve been searching for months, maybe you have some other options I haven’t looked at yet. Looking to move back to Mpls, MN area. Independent living community and must be affordable; living on disability social security.


    3. Delores Martinezq says:

      I’m tired of keeping up a home & yard and would like to find an affordable apartment for independent living.

    4. Eloise Butler says:

      I can’t find affordable senior living for myself,61 years old,disabled women in Gary,In,can you help

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