Retirement age can be a daunting prospect for some or maybe even for all of us. Someone who is entering into this stage in life needs to plan on how they want life to treat them moving forward. It is a sad reality that the days of people who are entering retirement can be lonely, their bodies will feel weak and daily living requirements can become more challenging to deal with. But don’t fret, if you’re entering this phase, then there are life enhancing solutions for seniors that ensure you are receiving the level of care you need and deserve.
Depending on your needs and preferences; there is a range of retirement and senior living options that can help you as you start the journey into this exciting chapter of your life. Whether it’s an affordable assisted living community, board and care home or independent living; each type of care offers a range of benefits and advantages that make them extractive options for retirement. For those seniors that prefer a less hands on approach and don’t require as high a level of assistance; independent living could present an ideal environment.
What is Independent Living?
There are misconceptions over what exactly is meant by independent living. Also referred to as retirement communities, senior living communities or senior apartment complexes; when it comes to senior housing; independent living refers to a level of care for elderly residents aged 55 or older, who might not require the same assistance with daily needs or 24/7 care but can still benefit from the convenience, senior friendly environment and opportunities to socialize with other seniors. Independent living offers the chance for elderly residents to remain independent while enjoying access to different amenities and a community of others who share similar interests. It focuses largely on the communal element as opposed to the hands on services you might find in other levels of care such as assisted living or memory care.
Assisted Living vs. Independent Living
Unlike other levels of care; independent living is not considered a type of long term care and as such, the decision to enter this type of care is not based on medical necessity. Rather, the choice usually comes down to how well the person can manage their daily activities without the need for a higher level of assistance. For those that require extra help for things like routine housekeeping, getting dressed, bathing, dietary management, or added safety precautions, finding an assisted living community might be the better retirement option.
These assisted living communities are designed to take care of those daily living requirements in a more maintenance-free environment. They generally offer a full schedule of activities and additional services such as medication and dietary management for those that need it.
On the other hand, independent living is for those seniors who can still live independently and want to socialize with other residents but enjoy having access to help if a situation comes up.
Independent Living Amenities and Activities
Residents in independent living have their own space or apartment that they generally maintain themselves. It offers an abundance of recreational and social activities, community events, and entertainment options designed to keep seniors active, facilitate interactions with new friends, and try new interests and hobbies.
Residents are often offered a dining option where they have the chance to pay for a number of meals per day or month. Because of that, many elect to combine preparing the food themselves with eating at the cafeteria-like setting at the community.
While many of these services are also offered in assisted living communities; some examples of the activities often associated with independent living can include:
- Swimming and Fitness
- Art Classes
- Golf Courses
- Exercise Regiments
- Restaurants and Dining
- Onsite barber shops
- Computers to use
Fighting the Loneliness of Old Age
In addition to offering seniors freedom and comfort, another benefit of independent living is its ability to combat the loneliness and isolation that often comes with old age. Studies suggest that 18% of seniors are living alone, and therefore have a tendency to often feel isolated or lonely.
Independent living aims to resolve this tragic situation by encouraging residents to retain relationships with their loved ones and form newer ones inside the community. The newer ones keep residents happy inside the home while loved ones like grandchildren are always welcome to visit.
Cost and Affordability
For those that are concerned over the potentially growing cost of retirement; independent living can be a more viable option. While the cost of independent living can vary depending on the accommodations, services, location and meal plan being offered; this level of care is generally considered a more affordable option. This is largely due to the fact that there is less need for medical care, assisted living and 24/7 assistance that are required in other types of care.
In many cases, when a senior no longer desires to live alone, they sell their house and capitalize on not having to deal with those household costs to help pay for their new independent living home. Others decide to use their retirement package or long-term insurance to help alleviate the costs.
Considerations Before Moving to Independent Living
As discussed above, there are a number of benefits of moving to an independent living community; particularly for those seniors that don’t require help with daily living necessities and crave a more engaging social life. But before you decide that it’s the right choice for you or a loved one or which community would be the right fit, there are important things to consider and questions you should ask.
- Moving into independent living can be a major decision; especially if you plan to sell your home first. You want to make sure that you are healthy enough for the active and physically intensive independent living lifestyle. If you have a debilitating condition such as Alzheimer’s disease or have noticed a decline in health; it might not be the right option for your current or future needs.
- Make sure to take your time and consider your options before coming to a decision of which facility is the right fit. The activities, amenities, and services in independent living homes can vary significantly depending on the location. So making sure you are doing the necessary research, checking out reviews and learning all you can about what’s being offered can play an essential role in choosing a facility that is the right fit as well as your overall happiness.
- Another important consideration is how far the community you are choosing will put you from your friends and family. One of the major advantages of independent living is the ability to meet new people but you might not want to isolate yourself from your current loved ones and support.
- Whenever choosing a retirement home; whether it’s assisted living, memory care or independent living it’s always a good idea to schedule a visit or tour of the community before coming to a decision. This allows you to get a better idea of what to expect, ask about any questions or concerns you might have and receive feedback from other residents. Here are some additional questions and topics you should consider bringing up during your visit:
- Find out if meals and transportation are made available and any additional details about the schedule.
- Discuss the average age of other residents in the community.
- Ask about the policy for children and if pets are allowed.
- Bring up any questions you have about fees and what is being covered each month.
- Make sure to ask about what happens in an emergency, what type of security is offered and the level of training the staff has gone through.
In sum, if you or a loved one is reaching the age where you crave socializing with others but don’t need the extra assistance with daily living requirements; an independent living community could be a great option for retirement.