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Guide to Independent Living

You’re healthy, retired or near retirement, and you just want to enjoy life without the daily responsibilities of taking care of a home. You want to socialize, travel, lounge by the pool, and connect with your peers. 

If that sounds like you, then independent living may be a perfect choice!

Today’s seniors are healthy, active, and more independent than ever. They’re looking for safe long-term living solutions that provide a sense of community and encourage health and wellness.

The growing senior population will continue to move the demand for high-quality independent living communities. 

Finding an independent living community that fits your needs takes time. But, with more than 49,000 independent living communities in the United States, feeling overwhelmed and stressed is normal. 

Whether you’re looking for an independent living community for yourself or a loved one, the following guide to independent living has everything you need to choose the perfect community.

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living communities (also known as retirement or active adult communities) offer seniors and families an independent lifestyle in a safe community setting. 

Seniors in independent living communities want to maintain their independence without home maintenance and daily household responsibilities. These communities offer various living options from apartments to beautiful single-family detached two or three-bedroom homes with spacious open floor plans with gorgeous amenities. 

Independent living communities offer residents the convenience of housekeeping services, home maintenance, yard, and landscaping service. Planned activities, classes, transportation, and amenities, like fitness centers and pools, are some of the most popular amenities. 

On-site medical care is typically not an option for residents in independent living. This is because residents in independent living are primarily healthy and don’t need regular medical care.

Is Independent Living Right for Me?

Choosing where you’re going to spend your retirement is an important decision. However, make sure you take the time to consider your lifestyle before you decide. 

To determine if independent living is the right choice for you or a loved one, consider the following:

Consider Your Health

If you or your spouse require help with daily activities such as bathing, dressing, or toileting, an assisted living community might be a better choice. 

Some long-term care communities like Hearthside Senior Living combine assisted living and independent living, giving residents and their families the option of transitioning to assisted living when needed. 

Seniors that are active, healthy, and can manage their own doctor visits and medication are perfect for independent living communities. 

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Are You Lonely?

Many seniors live alone and often become less socially active, leading to isolation, loneliness, and depression.

It may be harder to drive as we age, making it more difficult to run daily errands or attend social gatherings with family and friends. Even the most well-intentioned family members get busy, and former friends may also have difficulty getting around.  

Independent living communities help fight these trends. Seniors often thrive in independent living communities thanks to the services and activities offered by the community. Residents enjoy a calendar full of planned activities, social events, group fitness classes, and more. 

Being in an active community with the support and company of other seniors is the best part of living in an independent community.

Are You Having Trouble Maintaining Your Home?

For many seniors, maintaining a home is a struggle. Cleaning, yard upkeep, and home repairs are time-consuming, expensive, and stressful. In addition, doing your own home repairs as a senior can be dangerous.

Selling or renting out your current home and moving into an independent living community can give you extra income and allow you to enjoy retirement without the responsibility of maintaining a home.

Independent Living Costs

Choosing a community that meets your needs and fits your budget is a major deciding factor for most. On average, monthly costs for independent living can range anywhere from $1500 to $7000 per month.

Independent living expenses will vary dramatically between states and even within communities in the same city. Genworth’s cost calculator tool is a great place to start for information on your specific state. 

The good news is that independent living is less expensive than other types of senior care, such as assisted living communities and nursing homes because personal care and health services are not needed. 

Independent living costs will also vary depending on the amenities that are offered in the community. For example, communities with upscale amenities like pools or spas may be more expensive. Making a list of what’s most important to you is a great way to control costs and find the right community for your lifestyle and budget. 

Accommodation selection will also affect your cost. Larger accommodations with added amenities will increase your expenses.

Independent living communities can have different cost structures.  Some will have set monthly fees that include rent and other essentials. Others may use an a la carte pricing structure where you pay for specific services as needed.  

Make sure you ask the following questions before signing a contract:

  • Is a deposit required? Is it refundable?
  • What services are included in my monthly fee?
  • How am I billed?
  • What if I need to cancel my contract?
  • Do you offer financial assistance?
  • Are there entrance fees?
  • What amenities are included?

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Paying for Independent Living

Of course, paying for independent living is a concern for many seniors. Although Medicare doesn’t cover these costs, there are several other options. 

Personal Income & Savings

Many retirees opt to pay out-of-pocket for independent living expenses. If possible, meet with a financial advisor to discuss your ability to pay with savings and personal income.

Distributions from pensions, social security benefits, retirement accounts, liquidated assets, and investments are excellent ways to pay for independent living expenses.  

Long-term Care Insurance

A long-term care insurance policy will probably help pay for some independent living costs. Policies can vary, so make sure you speak with your insurance professional for guidance. 

Life Insurance Policy

If you’re healthy and have multiple life insurance policies, you may want to consider cashing out a whole life insurance policy to pay for independent living expenses.

Reverse Mortgages

A reverse mortgage allows seniors 62 years of age and older to borrow cash against the equity in their home. A reverse mortgage requires you to be married, and a spouse must remain in the house. Payments can be received in a lump sum or as a line of credit or monthly installments.

Selling or Renting Your Current Home

Selling or renting your current home makes sense for many seniors. However, selling a home can be emotional for seniors and families. Talk with your children, especially if they grew up in the house before deciding to sell.  

The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA)

If you’re a veteran or spouse of a veteran, you may qualify for help with independent living expenses. The Veteran Directed Care Program may offer some support services for veterans in independent living communities.

Choosing an Independent Living Community

Deciding to move into an independent living community is a significant life change. Seniors often experience moments of worry, doubt, fear, and even excitement at the prospect of starting a new life. 

You want to make sure your new home is a place where you’re happy, safe, and can remain independent. Finding the perfect community takes time, patience, and a lot of research. So begin your search early and visit multiple communities in your city. 

Make a list of your wants, needs, and must-haves. Independent living communities differ in amenities, services, housing options, cultures, and prices, so you want to make sure you clearly understand what you’re looking for. 

A great place to start is to ask for referrals from trusted friends, family, neighbors, church members, and even your physician. 

Make a list of independent living communities that meet your requirements and set up in-person tours. Request a virtual tour if in-person tours are not offered due to COVID-19 protocols. Make sure you take a trusted friend or family member with you for a second opinion.  

Ask if you can have lunch or dinner during your tour, this will allow you and your guest to assess the dining room, residents, and the quality of the food. 

As you tour the community, make a note of:

  • Cleanliness of dining room, apartments, and common areas
  • Amenities, like beauty salon, fitness center, chapel, or library
  • Safety features like guard rails, ramps, grab bars, lighting
  • Does the community have amenities that interest you?
  • Are residents active and social? Are they participating in activities?
  • Are there clubs, activities, and religious organizations that align with your interests?
  • Is the staff friendly and engaging?

Make the most of your visit. Below are some factors to consider when visiting independent living communities and specific questions to ask.

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Overall Community & Living Options

You want your new home to be safe and inviting. Take the time to tour the housing options offered by the community. 

You want your living space to reflect your personality and individual preferences. For example, do you like modern or traditional interiors? Would you prefer an apartment-style living or a single-family detached home?

Check out the impressive condo-style adjoining homes that feature one-car garages, patios, and beautiful front porches at Hearthside Independent Living Community

  • What types of housing are currently available?
  • Do you help residents move in?
  • Can I bring my furniture?
  • Are pets allowed?
  • Are housekeeping and laundry included in my monthly fee? 
  • What security measures or in place?
  • What happens if there is an emergency?
  • What are your COVID-19 safety/testing measures? What happens if a resident tests positive?

Dining Services

Your dining experience is one of the most important factors to consider when visiting independent living communities. Choose communities that are in line with your preferences. Do you like variety? Do you like to snack or eat late at night? Below are some dining considerations when selecting an independent living community.

  • What type of dining packages are offered?What is the cost?
  • What are my daily meal choices? Does the community offer residents a variety of food options, or are residents served the same meal?
  • How are meals served? 
  • Is there an on-staff dietician or nutritionist?
  • How are dietary restrictions handled?
  • Can I order meals to be delivered to my apartment or home?
  • Are meals/snacks offered outside of scheduled dining hours?

Administration & Staff 

The staff is the backbone of the community. You want to feel comfortable with management and employees. You want to live in a community where the staff is happy and friendly with residents. 

Make notes and ask the following questions during your tour.

  • Are background checks performed?
  • How easy is it to set a meeting with the community director if I have a concern or question?
  • Are staff interacting with residents 
  • What are COVID-19 protocols for staff?
  • What is your staff to resident ratio?
  • What are the training and education requirements for staff?

Health & Wellness 

Now is an excellent time for health-conscious seniors to move into independent living communities. 

Many communities are offering residents a variety of options to stay healthy. Virtual workouts, in-person fitness classes, yoga, meditation, and strength training geared toward seniors are just some of the possibilities offered in communities. 

Choosing a community that promotes and prioritizes health is essential; that’s why it’s vital to choose a community that offers a variety of ways to stay healthy. 

Consider the following:

  • What types of fitness classes are offered?
  • Are virtual workouts an option?
  • Are classes designed for seniors?
  • Ask to see a fitness calendar
  • Do you have healthy food options?
  • Visit the fitness center, if possible ask to meet instructors

Activities & Amenities

Retirement should be fun and active. One of the advantages of independent living is socializing with other residents. Make sure you ask questions to determine if the social scene fits your lifestyle.

  • What social and recreational activities are planned for residents? Ask to look at their monthly calendar
  • Are social activities included in my monthly fee? If not, what are the costs?
  • Do you have plans for new activities/amenities in the future?
  • Do you have planned activities outside of the community? Is transportation offered?
  • Can residents request activities?

Transitioning to Independent Living

You’ve chosen an independent living community that has everything you need. Yet, you don’t understand why you feel anxious. 

Even if you’re excited about the maintenance-free lifestyle and social opportunities offered by independent living, it’s perfectly normal to feel regret, sadness, and apprehension about leaving your home.

Moving is a significant life change for anyone, especially if you’re selling a home that holds lifelong memories. Give yourself time to adjust, be honest about your feelings, talk to your family and spouse. 

Stay positive and enjoy the process. This is an exciting change! Ensure a smooth transition to the independent living community with the following tips.

  • Contact the independent living community and give them your move-in date and time; some communities have specific guidelines and may offer assistance.
  • Give yourself plenty of time to purge and pack up your current home. Keep only the items you love. Donate, throw away, or give things you don’t want to family and friends. This is a great time to make a fresh start. Your new home should be organized and filled with your favorite things. 
  • Reach out to family and friends. Your inner circle can help with your move. They can also be there to listen when you feel anxious, apprehensive, or need a little advice.
  • Bring personal and sentimental items like pictures, favorite furniture pieces, and family heirlooms to make your new space feel like home.
  • Get creative when decorating your new space. If you’ve always lived in a traditional-style home, try modern. You’re starting a new chapter in your life! Try something new.
  • Once you move, get to know your neighbors. Sign up for a variety of social events and recreational activities. Try a new class or hobby. Have fun!

Enjoy Your New Home

Congratulations on your decision to move into an independent living community. After reading this guide to independent living, you’ll have all of the information you need to choose your next home.

Independent living communities are an exceptional lifestyle choice for older adults. Enjoy your maintenance-free, carefree lifestyle without the responsibility of home maintenance and repairs.

Socialize with your peers and enjoy the many activities in your new community. To learn more about independent living, fill out the contact form and a staff member will reach out.