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The Difference Between Independent Living and Assisted Living

Many might believe that independent living and assisted living for seniors are one in the same type of care, but they are actually quite different. The main difference in the two normally depends on how well an individual can manage their daily activities. Examples of daily activities include, but are not limited to: preparing meals, personal hygiene, managing medications, completing household chores, driving/coordinating transportation, and maintaining personal finances.

Independent living, also known as senior apartments, retirement communities, and continuing care retirement communities, is any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors, commonly those aged 55 and over. The style of housing varies widely, from apartment-style living to freestanding homes. In general, independent living communities are structured to older adults, often being more compact, with easier navigation and maintenance and yard work included in the rent.

While residents live independently, most communities offer amenities, activities, and services. Recreational centers or clubhouses are available on site to give seniors the opportunity to connect with other members of the community and participate in community activities, such as card games, holiday gatherings, arts and crafts, or movie nights. Independent livings may also offer other amenities such as a swimming pool, fitness center, computer rooms, even a golf course. Other common services offered in independent livings include beauty and barber salons, daily meals, and basic housekeeping and laundry services.

Since independent living facilities are aimed at older adults who need little or no assistance with activities of daily living, most do not offer medical care or nursing staff. As with regular housing, though, you can hire in-home help separately as required.

On the other hand, assisted living, is just what the name states, assistance with living, or daily activities of living. Assisted living communities are for seniors with minor disabilities and who need minor help with their day-to-day chores. The communities commonly provide help with activities of daily living, coordination of services by outside health care providers and monitor resident activities to ensure their health, safety and well-being.

Assisted livings as they exist today emerged in the 1990s as an alternative senior care to nursing homes. They provide a middle ground of care for seniors that are not quite independent, but do not need the full care of a skilled nursing facility. The living areas in assisted living facilities normally consist of private apartments or rooms that residents can decorate with their own furnishings. The staff respects resident privacy whenever possible and try to create an atmosphere of independence. Other services commonly included are shared meals, laundry and housekeeping. Seniors who are younger or in a more physically stable stage often do well in assisted livings.

The choice between assisted living and independent living should be determined by your needs or the needs of your loved one. Many communities offer both assisted and independent living options and residents are able to adjust their lifestyle based on their changing needs. Inquire about the options that are available in each community you consider and be sure to ask about services that are included in the monthly rental and those that are an additional cost. Tour the community and speak with staff members and residents to gain the information you need to make the right decision.

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