If you're ready to consider a change in your retirement lifestyle you might be getting confused by the options available. For most seniors, the most perplexing is figuring out the difference between different levels of senior care. To add to the confusion is the way some communities advertise their campus. Organizations may use different terms to mean the same thing, and the same term to describe different things. A brief rundown on the differences between independent retirement living and assisted living for seniors will help you understand different options while you research.
Daystar Village in West Seattle offers a variety of senior living options, from independent retirement living to assisted living options. Offering both living options on the same campus allows most resident to age in place and positions us to offer expert perspectives on the difference between the two.
What Is Independent Living?
Many may wonder about the definition of independent retirement living because it covers a wide range of communities. Independent living generally does not offer personal or health care assistance from staff. It is focused on amenities and events geared towards active seniors and may be designed as apartments, condos, townhouses, houses, or mobile home communities. Each community has its own rules about who qualifies for independent living.
There are four basic types of independent living communities:
Age-Targeted: While not restricted to seniors, an age-targeted community might market to those 55 and over. They may include community social and recreational activities and outside maintenance but are open to families of all ages and do not provide any type of health care.
Over 55 or disabled: Restricted by the rules set down by the US. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) in the Fair Housing Act, these communities are inclusive to seniors, and rent is typically based on income. There are usually amenities similar to a country club membership; outside maintenance is covered by an association or condominium fee. No health care is provided.
Leisure-focused: although not age-restricted, these communities are geared toward empty nesters and typically are similar to living at a resort. Swimming pools, golf courses, and walking trails are often featured; children are allowed but the community is focused on seniors. No health care is provided.
Combination communities: some communities are designed for independent living with an option of moving to assisted living at a future date if the need arises. These typically offer all the amenities of assisted living and have licensed care staff on campus.
What Is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is for those who may need help with daily tasks and routine self-care including bathing and grooming or managing multiple medication dosages throughout the day. Assisted living is not always age based. Disabled adults may also qualify for an assisted living facility.
Assisted living facilities are required to have trained medical staff on site who will check on residents at specific times and monitor the emergency call buttons in each living area. If you need help with getting dressed, bathing, or taking medications, an assisted living community is a more affordable alternative to hiring a home health care services.
Assisted living communities also include housekeeping, meals, social activities, fitness classes, transportation, and day trips to keep residents active and engaged in daily life. Ask each facility you research what of the above is already included in their monthly rental fees. Assisted living facilities might offer specialty services like memory care or extra check-ins for residents with dementia.
A typical assisted living floorplan is a full-sized apartment with a full kitchen even though meals are still provided in one or more dining rooms on campus. Many assisted living communities offer different levels of care, so you might choose to move in on an independent living level and switch to assisted living if the need arises.
Choosing Your Best Type of Retirement Living
Both independent living and assisted living communities can offer a wide range of amenities. Besides entertainment and activities, you should look for amenities that suit your current interests such as recreation, social opportunities, fitness classes, and day trips. Many places have barbers, beauty salons, and transportation available for residents so it's all about your needs and lifestyle choices.
To help decide which type of senior housing is right for you consider your current lifestyle. Do you need help getting dressed or taking medications on time or do you just want to downsize your home? Do you like to travel, golf, or socialize? Don't leave it at just that. It’s good to ask your family members and doctor what they think about your senior living options. You can also look for a campus that offers different levels of care so if you need more help in a few years you won't have to move to a new place.