Choices for senior living vary widely — with younger seniors typically opting for “active adult” or “independent living” communities. The two are similar but have subtle differences.
The community with the more extensive amenities is the active adult community, which targets residents over the age of 55. Most residents own their homes, are free of any serious or debilitating health concerns and enjoy a resort-like setting with golf, tennis, swimming and social events. The Sun City developments by Del Webb around the country are an example of this concept.
An independent living community, also targeted to those age 55 and up and capable of taking care of themselves, is subtly different. While active adult communities typically emphasize golf and tennis and a resort-like atmosphere, independent developments will have more low-key social activities. Residents may lease or buy their homes, which could be single-family units, condominiums or apartments.
Seniors in independent living may be a little older than those in active communities where residents may have barely crossed the 55-plus threshold and are still very much on the go, perhaps even still working.
Often the decision to move to independent living comes when seniors realize that upkeep on their own homes is too much for them. Independent living communities may also offer private security for residents.
When care is needed. After independent living, when seniors require some assistance with medical and personal needs, they may progress to assisted living. Some large facilities, called continuing care communities, will have three phases of living: independent, assisted and nursing care, all on one campus. Residents of independent living on such campuses live there for easy future transition to assisted living.
Cost of independent living. Costs vary, depending on size of the unit and section of the country. A one-bedroom apartment may range from $1,500 to $3,500 per month. If the independent living facility is part of a continuing care community, a substantial fee prepays anticipated future medical costs.