The world of senior living has changed drastically over the past ten years. Senior communities today offer everything older adults could need and more and are far from the hospital-like facilities of the past. 


There are many living options for older adults, but most fall under the headings of “independent living” and “assisted living.” What are the differences, and which is right for you or your loved one?

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living communities are designed for older adults who want to stay active but are looking for a bit more support or convenience than they would have living alone. Independent living communities give these residents their own private rooms but are mere moments away from on-site staff and various amenities. 


Independent communities offer modern conveniences for residents who want to spend their time doing the things they enjoy rather than cooking, cleaning, or performing other routine tasks. They also offer endless opportunities to meet new people and socialize with others in the community.


It’s becoming more common for older adults who are fully capable of living alone to choose independent living communities. The convenience, access to amenities, and social atmosphere create a sense of ease that just can’t be replicated in most homes.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living is designed for older adults who need a little more support than those in independent living arrangements. Assisted living communities are similar to independent living in that residents have their own rooms or suites, but these spaces are generally more accessible and closer to on-site staff. 


Staff members are also more involved in helping residents with daily activities. Examples of some of the services provided in assisted living communities include help with:


  • Dressing
  • Grooming
  • Getting around
  • Managing medications


Assisted living doesn’t mean that residents lose their independence. In fact, most communities encourage their residents to do as much as they can on their own and empower them to remain independent.


Additionally, assisted living residents have just as much access to amenities and social activities as those in independent living. Regardless of a resident’s mobility, health status, or needs, they can always participate fully in community activities.

Which Type of Community Is Better?

Both assisted living and independent living are great options for older adults looking to make a change. Neither is necessarily better or worse than the other — it simply comes down to the type and amount of support needed.


Retirees who need help with daily activities may feel limited in independent living communities. Similarly, those who don’t require as much support may end up paying for services they don’t need in assisted living.

How to Decide Which Option Is a Better Fit

Deciding how best to care for an old loved one can be difficult. Making the transition to a senior living community from a family home is a big change, one that usually takes some getting used to. It’s important to be thoughtful about what kind of support your loved one needs before moving them into a senior living community. 


If your loved one is living alone and is fully capable of cooking, completing daily chores, maintaining a schedule, and keeping up with medication, independent living can be a good option. On the other hand, if they have trouble performing everyday activities, assisted living may be a better choice. 


The best thing to do is talk to the administrators and staff at different communities to get all of the information you need to make a decision you can be comfortable with. Staff members will be able to describe in detail what a typical day for residents looks like, as well as explain the various services and amenities offered. They might even be able to make a recommendation. 


You could even seek help from a counselor who specializes in older adults. These professionals can provide an informed perspective on the different options as well as how to pay for them. Just make sure that the prospective resident is involved in deciding what type of care is right for them.


Both independent living and assisted living can be great options for older adults. With a little research and careful consideration, you can find your loved one a new living arrangement where they’ll be sure to thrive for years to come.