Assisted Living vs Independent Living for Seniors

Senior Housing, Which Is Right for Your Parent?

Your mom, she has always been there for you. Just as she kept you safe, comfortable, and protected when you needed it, there comes a time when you may need to return this same love to your mom—especially if she’s living with early dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.

Deciding to move your mom into senior housing can be a challenging decision if you’re unfamiliar with the types of senior living options. If your mom does not require continual care or monitoring and is still relatively independent, the choice may come down to two options: assisted living vs. independent living.

Let’s look closer at the similarities and differences between these two senior living facilities.

Similarities Between Assisted Living vs. Independent Living

There are similarities between Assisted Living Facilities (ALF’s) and Independent Living (IL) communities for seniors. Both communities include:

  • A sense of independence and privacy.
  • Housing and some support services.
  • Recreational activities—like games, discussion groups, special celebrations, fitness classes, and outings—exclusive to each facility’s residents and abilities.
  • Resident transportation services to and from appointments, the stores, and other errands.

Features of Assisted Living Facilities for Seniors

Assisted Living facilities are primarily for people who require assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) and cannot live alone due to physical or cognitive limitations. The move into an ALF can help keep your mom healthier, safer, and even happier with the following amenities:

Care services. Some ALFs don’t have around-the-clock nursing staff like skilled nursing facilities; however, there is on-site trained staff available to provide support with:

  • Meal preparation
  • Housekeeping and laundry
  • Access to a personal care assistant for assistance with ADL’s like toileting, bathing, dressing
  • 24-Hour emergency call systems
  • Assistance with medication administration
  • Wellness and social enrichment activities

Living space. ALF Assisted living facility living layouts vary among facilities. There are studio apartments up to three-bedroom apartment arrangements. Each unit, consists of a private bathroom, living and bedroom space, and space for storage. Some units may also be furnished with full kitchens, depending on the level of care offered at the ALF. Additional care. Some ALFs offer specialized accommodation for seniors with cognitive impairments, called memory care.

Features of Independent Senior Living Communities

An independent living community for seniors is intended for individuals who don’t require assistance performing ADLs. IL may be a perfect option for mom because it can provide her with a comfortable home-like environment while keeping her independent, socially active, healthy, and safe. IL communities offer the following amenities:

Care services. IL communities decrease your mom’s daily responsibilities, allowing her to continue living independently for as long as possible.

Amenities. The amenities of an independent living community are like those of a standard apartment, townhouse, or small home. Laundry and housekeeping services, on-site dining facilities, security surveillance, and related services are usually offered in these communities.

Living space. While IL the space varies, common housing options include apartment-style communities, co-living housing, and villas. Typically, residents live in their own private space and have access to a residential common area. Independent living communities are also referred to as senior apartments, active adult communities, retirement communities, or 55+ communities.

Safety. Because full-time medical or personal care are not on staff, a device like the Lively Wearable or Lively Mobile can offer your mom a simple, convenient, and inexpensive way to stay safe at home or on the go.

Additional care. If personal care or nursing staff are needed, these services are usually paid for privately. Personal care services offered in an ALF are usually not found in an independent living community.

Financial Resources for Assisted Living Facilities and Independent Senior Living

In addition to the differences in the provision of care levels, independent living and assisted living facilities are distinguishable based on the financial resources that can be utilized to cover the cost of living in these communities.

Since independent living communities don’t provide medical services to residents, Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance won’t assist with the cost. Instead, mom must privately pay with funds from Social Security benefits, pensions, retirement savings, and other private assets.

However, because assisted living communities provide a higher level of assistance, more options are available to cover costs. Along with paying with personal funds, some long-term care insurance policies and benefits from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs may pay for some portions of AL. Although Medicare does not cover assisted senior living, financial assistance for assisted living for seniors with low income may be available through Medicaid.

Be sure to talk to your mom’s doctor about how to safely transition your mom to her new senior living home. For more ideas about senior living options, check out our post on making an independent living community apartment feel more like home.

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Tagged with: active aging, aging, aging in place, ALF, assisted living, caregiver, caregivers, caregiving, dad, elderly, family caregiving, health, mom, resources, retirement home, senior living, seniors, wellness

10 thoughts on “Assisted Living vs Independent Living for Seniors

  1. Jini Hughes
    November 1, 2018 at 9:36 am

    This is great, however I would like to find out exactly how a person gets into this type of living. I am 81 years old and have been looking for over a year for a place for me to live. Right now I am temporarily living with one of my grandchildren and her spouse. This article makes it all seem great, but I’ve yet to find a start to it.

  2. William D. Etkin
    December 26, 2018 at 3:05 am

    When my wife past away my son put me in assisted living except I feel all I need is Independent Living. I am not quit sure what to do and need advice on this mater. so please respond.

  3. Bobby J
    July 18, 2019 at 6:40 pm

    I think it’s great if someone is trying their best as an octogenarian (80 & over) to avoid full-time hospice care. I understand the need for the independence but some folks require more than a few outings by a visitor. It worked well for my mom who had battled diabetes for 11 years. She had passed in October 2005. She had been a patient in a convalescent home operated by a wonderful SDA owner/medical director of hospital operations. The point is some folks truly need more care than others. Mental issues arise and if the patient can no longer perform simple hygiene habits then assisted living makes perfect sense. The idea of surrendering independence will be an item under future scrutiny. I think assisted living is the best way unless relatives can afford hospice care. I congratulate all the ones attaining age 90 and above… Lord willing… still active independent.

  4. Miss Marla Annette Stevens
    August 15, 2019 at 1:00 am

    Miss Marla Annette Stevens aren’t put birth mom Judy Kay senior citizen living community housings apts she 74 years old turn itself June 21 1945 daughter take care of herself don’t want her get taken away been separate 2 years ago .

  5. Sandra McKnight
    October 5, 2019 at 11:59 pm

    I have applied for an apt in a senior apt that is for senior citizens with disabilities I have been told I might have to wait a year I really need a place now My doctor has Told me recently I have Arthritis through out my lower back hips and legs

  6. Gracie
    October 10, 2019 at 7:39 pm

    I agree with assisted living as long as the people taking care of your loved ones are trustworthy , for the better part of my Great grandmothers life she ran an assisted living home out of her own home. It was truly like home – course there were rules and regulations but they actually seemed to be like a big family.

  7. Angela Waterford
    December 10, 2019 at 11:50 pm

    I wasn’t aware that assisted living communities had differed from independent living communities until you pointed out that assisted living ones are primarily tailored for people who cannot live alone due to medical limitations. Maybe my father needs this since he wishes to live by himself, but I know that he still needs help for some of his baths. Perhaps it would be best to help him find a facility that offers this so he can tell for himself if he needs this.

  8. Victoria Addington
    May 6, 2020 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for your blog on how to select an assisted living community for my grandma. Since I have a baby now, I don’t think I can manage taking care of a grandparents and a baby while working at the same time, which is why I had to look into senior apartments available here in Mason City. I like what you said that assisted living provides a higher level of assistance for my grandma.

  9. Alice Carroll
    September 22, 2020 at 7:46 am

    I like that you mentioned that meal preparation is also included in a live-in care service. My grandfather has been growing weaker these past few month and since he didn’t have any major medical ailments, his doctor just suggested a better diet. Maybe a live-in care service will help him prepare better meals than the ones he tries to make himself.

  10. Mark
    March 27, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    My mom’s situation is a little different, and so is my solution. She is in pretty good shape both physically and emotionally, and has lived alone for several years. We both were concerned that something could happen to her, but it would be potentially days before anyone would notice. The kicker was that she refused to wear a pendant or to be a bother to anyone who would call her every day just to check in. I did some research and came across a company called They have an automated system that calls her every day. All she has to do is answer the phone and press “one”, and hang-up. They text me if she doesn’t answer or if she doesn’t press “one”. She loves it! And so do I. The reassurance we get from is priceless. I recommend it to anyone interested in keeping they parent(s) in their home for as long as possible.

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