A Guide to Independent Living Communities

by: Carylanne Crowne

Many people aged 55 and older try to maintain their independence by living at home. They may not realize that they are actually less independent by remaining in their old home. Independence can be limited by mortgage, property tax, and home maintenance expenses. Seniors’ health and happiness can suffer from a high level of stress and anxiety. Seniors on a fixed income may live in dread of an unexpected expense. Living alone with insufficient human contact, feeling less safe as fall risk increases, and as vision and hearing begin to deteriorate, creates increasing anxiety. Seniors who can no longer drive have less access to friends and family, shopping, and even medical appointments. Eventually, seniors may be faced with the question: Are you an independent senior, or a senior trapped alone in your house?

Independent Living Communities

Independent living communities may present the perfect alternative to remaining in your old home. Such communities range from age-restricted neighborhoods to enclosed, self-sufficient and full-service environments. Research them online, and visit as many as you can, asking all of the questions you have. Then determine which community offers the right balance between comfortable independence and stress-relieving services for you.

Renting or owning a home in an age-restricted neighborhood provides the benefit of living among many people similar to yourself. You have the ability to socialize and make more friends your age who may enjoy the same activities you do. Senior neighborhoods generally do not offer services. If you have a high degree of independent functioning, this may be right for you.

Other independent living facilities offer apartments in sizes from studio to three-bedroom. Some provide the option of small, single-level cottages. Apartment leases should include flexible terms to allow for changes in your circumstances. Communities like these are more compact, and easier to walk. Indoor and outdoor amenities helpful for older people are provided. These communities may offer some housekeeping, relieving you of some daily chores.

Full-service independent living communities offer expansive services to provide worry-free independent living. Besides housing, these communities offer meals in a community setting; transportation to medical appointments; classes, social events and recreational activities onsite; and community outings. Seniors can determine the right balance for them between privacy in their separate residences and socializing. They also have easy access to help if they need it. Home medical or personal care usually must be arranged and paid for by the senior resident.

Are Independent Living Communities Affordable?

The cost of an independent living community will vary by state, specific location, size of residence, and amenities offered. That creates a range from $1400 to $6600 per month, according to www.after55.com/independent-living. There may be an entrance fee, community fees, or a second-person fee.

In return, your rent will include most utilities, one to three meals per day, community and recreational activities, and an emergency call system and safety features. Very often your facility will also offer housekeeping, laundry service, and transportation for shopping and medical appointments. Items that offset the costs of independent living communities include no mortgage or property tax, decreased utility bills, no home maintenance costs, and no need for a car and its associated costs.

Selling your house will release funds for your new lifestyle. If you have maintained long-term care insurance, that will also help pay for a place in an independent living community. Retirement benefits and veteran’s benefits may add to your options. Family members can also provide important help. They want you to be comfortable and safe.

What if Moving is Too Much for Me?

Leaving your old home is a major change. It may be the home in which you raised your children, or hold other sentimental meaning. Give yourself time to adjust to the idea of moving.

When you are ready, call on friends and family to help you find a reputable and affordable moving company. Call on them again to help you sort through your belongings, an often overwhelming task. Sell or give away items you won’t need in your new residence. At least put them into storage. Keep sentimental photos or items ready to immediately put up and arrange in your new residence. Choose furniture and decor that make your new space comfortable and welcoming.

Before moving, visit the community and meet some of the residents. Spend some time there, so you’ll have friends waiting for you. Get family members on board for frequent visits during the early weeks after you move, to ease the transition. Then start to explore your new community. You may well find that the freedoms and services offered make you more independent than ever before.

Caryl Anne Crowne is a contributing writer and media specialist for Aveanna Healthcare. She often produces content for a variety of healthcare blogs.