Today, there are more older adults than ever. In fact, the CDC points out that older adults are actually set to outnumber kids for the first time in U.S. history over the next two decades.
This so-called “Graying of America” is bringing with it enormous changes—changes to healthcare, transportation options, social welfare programs, and more.
One of the most exciting changes to come about is the rise of the independent living community. Rather than the confining nature of the nursing home, this type of community offers older adults a simpler, more manageable lifestyle while never compromising the freedom and independence of living alone.
But is an independent living community right for you? What kinds of benefits can you expect from moving into this type of community? And how does it compare to other senior living options?
We take a look at all those questions and more below.
Table of Contents
- What Is an Independent Community?
- Is Independent Living the Same as Assisted Living?
- What Is the Difference Between Independent Living & Senior Apartments?
- What Kinds of Amenities Do Senior Independent Living Communities Offer?
- Freedom When You Want It, Support When You Need It
- Maintenance-Free Living
- On-Site Health & Private Services
- Off-Site Transportation
- Visit With Friends & Family
- Does Medicare Pay for Independent Living?
- Where Is Independent Living Near Me?
What Is an Independent Community?
An independent community, also called a senior independent living community or just independent living community, is a community designed to help older adults stay healthy, socially connected, and happy in their later years—all without compromising their day-to-day freedom.
These complexes usually have apartments or cottages where seniors can spend their day however they wish.
However, the community as a whole typically will offer plenty of social events and other services that make it easier for older adults to keep doing whatever it is that they love to do.
These facilities will also usually offer 24-hour emergency services, prepaid meals, periodic housekeeping, and home maintenance services that are all built into the monthly price.
Most residents choose an independent living community to simplify their lives while still retaining the freedom they need to stay happy.
Is Independent Living the Same as Assisted Living?
An independent living community is not the same as an assisted living facility.
In a senior independent living community, residents will typically be able to care entirely for themselves. They do not need help dressing, bathing, cooking, or carrying out normal daily tasks. Most independent living communities will only offer those services in special cases.
Assisted living facilities, on the other hand, offer a much more involved level of care. These facilities usually offer:
- Three daily meals
- Medication management
- Personal laundry services
- 24-hour personal care
- Weekly housekeeping
As a result, individuals in an assisted living facility have far less freedom to do as they choose throughout their day.
What Is the Difference Between Independent Living & Senior Apartments?
Senior apartments are apartments designed specifically for older adults.
Many senior apartment facilities require all residents to be 55 years or older.
This keeps noise to a minimum, connects residents to specific services they need (e.g., emergency call systems, step-in showers), and helps encourage freer socialization among residents.
However, senior apartment facilities don’t offer the same level of amenities as an independent living community.
For instance, independent living communities will usually include benefits like:
- Daily meals
- Daily check-ins
- Planned recreational and social events
- Scheduled transportation
- On-site services
Some senior independent living communities will also offer separated “cottages” for even more privacy.
What Kinds of Amenities Do Senior Independent Living Communities Offer?
Many of the amenities independent living communities offer are there to simplify the hassles of daily life so residents can stay happy, healthy, and connected with friends and family.
Here’s a quick walkthrough of the types of amenities you may find when searching for the right independent living community for you.
A Wide Variety of Social Events
Staying social as we age is critical to staying happy and healthy.
In fact, the National Institute on Aging reports that social isolation and loneliness has been linked to higher risks of:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive decline
- Alzheimer’s disease
- And more
That’s why one of the biggest benefits of a senior independent living community is that it helps you stay connected with friends and other older adults.
Most communities will include a wide variety of pre-planned social events, regular exercise classes, religious services, and plenty of other opportunities to reconnect with others.
Freedom When You Want It, Support When You Need It
What separates an independent living community from other senior care options is that residents have much more autonomy.
They are able to continue working, take a stroll along nature paths, watch a movie in the media room, visit with family and friends, and essentially live however they see fit.
Yes, some amenities are available like meals, semi-regular housekeeping, and maintenance. But on the whole, residents are free to do as they wish.
That being said, independent living communities will also offer 24-hour emergency services for all residents.
This gives older adults the freedom to stay independent while having peace of mind knowing if something goes wrong, they’ll be taken care of.
Another main draw to these types of communities is that residents no longer have to get bogged down in the daily hassles.
Things like apartment maintenance, paying all the utilities, preparing for inclement weather, dealing with the mortgage, and more are all taken care of for one monthly payment.
For older adults, this means they can stop worrying about the little things and get back to doing what they love.
On-Site Health & Private Services
Events that help you stay active are also common in most independent living communities.
For older adults especially, getting regular exercise is vital for:
- Lowering the risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer
- Improving your strength and balance so you can prevent injuries and stay independent
- Improving your mood
- Feeling better about yourself
- Improving your ability to think, learn, and make decisions
Some of these communities will offer regular guided exercises like yoga, aerobics, and even weight training. Water exercises are also popular because they help support joint health.
The best communities will also have plenty of outdoor activities you can take part in, like trail walking, birdwatching, and more.
On top of that, some facilities will also offer physical and occupational services as well as access to an Audiologist, Podiatrist, Massage Therapist, and other home health services.
Many residents of an independent living community will still have their own vehicle to help them get around town.
However, some may still need off-site transportation options in order to run errands, attend appointments, and engage with the world outside of the community.
As such, many independent living care facilities will be able to provide transportation around town for residents.
This allows residents to go on scheduled trips, enjoy local shopping, and attend cultural events rather than feeling trapped in the community.
Visit With Friends & Family
Last but not least, an independent living community will let you stay connected with friends and family whenever you wish.
Other senior living options may restrict visiting hours or even phone calls with loved ones.
But with an independent living community, you will be able to visit with whomever you wish, whenever you wish.
Invite a friend over for a meal from the dining hall. Have the grandkids swing by for a dip in the pool.
Or hold a get-together with the whole clan—the choice is entirely yours.
Does Medicare Pay for Independent Living?
Medicare does not pay for independent living communities. However, it may pay for some services that you receive there (typically if they are directly related to a health condition).
That being said, there are plenty of other places to find financial support, including:
- Elderly waiver, personal care, or optional state supplement (OSS)
- Home and community-based services
- Veteran’s programs
- HELOCs and reverse mortgages
Many of the best communities will actually help you find ways to make this financial transition.
Where Is Independent Living Near Me?
An independent living community is a perfect option for older adults who are looking to simplify their day-to-day, engage with a vibrant social scene, and take advantage of plenty of life-giving amenities—all without sacrificing their freedom.
That being said, not all independent living communities offer the same experience. And unfortunately, it can be difficult to find the right one for you or your loved one if you don’t know where to look.
For those living in the St. Louis area, though, there’s Cape Albeon’s The Harbor.
This beautiful independent living community offers picturesque views, graceful dining, helpful services, superior medical support, and plenty of community daily activities like happy hours, trail walks, cultural attraction trips, and shopping excursions.
But that’s not all. We also offer:
- Delicious daily meals
- Bi-monthly housekeeping
- A 24-hour emergency response system
- Indoor pool and whirlpool
- Chapel for worship services
- And much more
Want to get a closer look at what life is like at Cape Albeon’s The Harbor? Just click below to schedule your tour today!
For the very best in an independent living community in and around St. Louis, look to The Harbor at Cape Albeon.