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, so here's a brief rundown on the differences:
What Is Independent Living?
Independent living offers very little personal or health care. It is focused on amenities and events geared towards active seniors and may be designed as apartments, condos, townhouses, houses, or mobile home communities.
There are four basic types of independent living communities:
Age targeted: while not restricted to seniors an age targeted community markets for those 55 and over. They may include community social areas and 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 towards 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 marketed for seniors. No health care is provided.
Combination communities: some communities are designed for independent living with an option of switching to assisted living at a future date if the need arises. These typically offer all the amenities of assisted living and have full medical staff on campus.
What Is Assisted Living?
Assisted living is for those who may need help with daily tasks and everyday self care including grooming or managing multiple medication dosages throughout the day. 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 getting dressed, bathing, or taking medications, an assisted living community is a more affordable alternative to hiring a home health care aid.
Certain assisted living communities also include housekeeping, meals, social activities, fitness classes, transportation, and day trips to keep residents active and engaged in life. Ask each facility you research what of the above is already included in their monthly rent fees.
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 as 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 look at 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 the two choices. 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.