independent living

Your loved one is unique, which is why it’s so crucial to find the right senior housing as they age.

This can be much harder than it sounds, especially if you’re not sure what level of assistance each facility offers. Worse, you may stumble across new and overlapping terms for care options in your research. This may leave you to wonder, “What is independent living, anyway, and how is it different from assisted living?”

In general, independent living facilities are for older adults who don’t want to live alone but don’t need much additional care. Assisted living facilities, on the other hand, are for adults who need medical support but don’t have a condition that requires an at-home nurse.

Beyond these basic definitions, there are a few things to know before you make a decision. Here are the key differences worth knowing about these living facilities.

Medical Support

As stated above, independent living facilities are for adults who don’t need much medical care. Many of them will offer minimal medical services, though they can often connect residents with them as needed. Some communities, on the other hand, may have medical facilities for patients.

Note that adults in these facilities may still have medical conditions. However, those conditions won’t affect their ability to take care of their own needs.

With assisted living facilities, there will always be staff members on hand to offer medical support. This option is perfect for adults who don’t need at-home nursing care but can’t live on their own. Many assisted living facilities also have an on-site primary care practice.

Daily Support

In an assisted living facility, adults can expect a great deal of daily support. Staff members will be on hand for everything from grooming assistance to regular check-ins.

This care may occur at different levels for different residents. Some older adults will need minimal assistance, while others may need help with things like eating or incontinence management. Adults with progressive diseases like dementia can also get extensive care.

By contrast, seniors in an independent living community won’t receive much daily support. This allows residents to remain self-sufficient as they go about their day.


Both of these options focus on creating opportunities for socialization, which is a major component of a senior’s overall health. In most cases, you’ll find that the calendar is packed with group activities and events. This gives older adults the chance to make new friends and enjoy fun activities.

Because the residents of independent living facilities tend to be relatively mobile, you’ll find more active on- and off-site activities. This may include yoga, day trips, movie events, gardening programs, and other activities. Some may even offer access to fitness centres, lessons at art studios, and other programming.

Many assisted living facilities will also offer similar activities. However, they also tend to focus on activities that residents with less mobility can also enjoy.


Both independent and assisted living facilities tend to have many amenities for residents. This can include everything from on-site salons to restaurant spaces. In general, both will also offer services like laundry, housekeeping, and transportation.

With assisted living facilities, you can expect three meals per day included in the total cost. The staff can also prepare special meals for residents with specific health needs. They’ll also offer snacks throughout the day.

At an independent living facility, residents often want more flexibility. Most facilities offer meal plans that include one or two meals per day or charge additional fees for using the restaurant. Many residents prefer to use transportation services to shop for their own groceries.

Community Design

Independent living facilities tend to be spacious. With shared spaces like pools, walking paths, and gathering areas, the campuses can get large. You may also notice that the space between these areas may be greater than with assisted living.

Assisted living communities, on the other hand, are often more compact. They tend to provide everything residents need within their apartment buildings. This makes it easier for residents to get around with less effort.

Note that assisted living communities may still have shared spaces like gazebos and walking paths. However, they may be smaller or more accessible by design.

Family Involvement

Independent living services are more like a retirement community than a medical facility. As a result, residents have more control over how much their families are involved in their lives. Family members can visit when desired, but they’re also able to take a break from caregiving if they prefer.

With assisted living, families get updates about their loved one’s progress by default. They are always part of the planning process when it comes to medical care. However, caregivers don’t need to worry about any of their loved one’s needs, as they can trust that the staff will take care of them.


As you might expect based on the differences we’ve discussed above, assisted living will usually be more expensive. The cost will vary according to the level of senior care a resident needs. On average, these facilities will charge between $3,000 and $5,000, depending on your location.

On the other hand, independent living tends to cost less. This is because independent living facilities often have fewer medical staff members and provide less daily support. Depending on your location, you may need to pay between $1,500 and $3,500 a month.

However, it’s worth noting that certain types of insurance may cover part or all of the cost. You may also be able to use a government pension plan to offset part of your stay.

Independent Living vs. Assisted Living

As you consider your senior living options, it’s important to know what each community will offer. Knowing the difference between assisted and independent living can help you decide which one will fit your needs or the needs of your loved one.

No matter what type of community you’re seeking, Retirement Concepts can help. If you’re unsure about the transition to senior living, our staff will be happy to speak with you, address your concerns, and even give you a tour. To learn more, contact us today.