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Independent Living: The Community Approach

An independent living community provides the senior citizen the most versatility and freedom of independence. The resident lives in an easy-to-maintain private apartment or house within a community of other seniors. Independent living communities are also known as:

  • Retirement communities
  • Retirement homes
  • Senior apartments
  • Senior communities

Many retirement communities normally do not provide the residents with custodial or medical care, but with the trend toward the aging in place philosophy, this is changing every day. Recent trends show that more and more seniors are moving to smaller, suburban areas outside of larger communities, such as Denver, Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix.

Who can be a resident of an independent living community?
Retirement communities are excellent for seniors who are healthy and able to care for themselves; who wish to retain their independent lifestyle; and who also wish for the added security and sociability that comes with a senior community.

"Many of the 77 million baby boomers retiring over the next few years will face unprecedented challenges in maintaining their standard of living in retirement." – Ernst and Young study

Most retirement communities also call themselves "active adult" communities in that they provide a host of social and recreational activities for residents. Many are built around golf courses and provide tennis courts, swimming pools and a club house and health center. Some even provide full-time social directors, as well as personal trainers and nutritionists. These benefits are allowing seniors to lead more active and healthy lives.

Affording independent living communities
Retirement is something that needs to be planned for well in advance. A study done by Ernst and Young says, “Many of the 77 million baby boomers retiring over the next few years will face unprecedented challenges in maintaining their standard of living in retirement."  The analysis finds that almost three out of five middle-class new retirees can expect to outlive their financial assets if they attempt to maintain their current preretirement standard of living. "To avoid outliving their financial assets, middle-class retirees will have to reduce their standard of living, on average, by 24 percent.” That means future seniors should be planning now if a retirement community is somewhere they’d like to be in the future.

Ownership options and costs vary with each independent living community, but most accept private payment methods only. In some states, there are programs to assist with rent, and government subsides allow some senior communities to serve low-income seniors. The Retirement Living Information Center site has a wealth of facilities that seniors or their loved ones could contact for further information on their area.

Congregate housing is another option for seniors who wish to maintain a level of independence, but may not be able to afford more expensive retirement communities. Housing of this nature provides private senior apartment living, but is free of the responsibilities of grocery shopping, meal preparation, housework, etc.

In the end, an independent living community is an excellent alternative for the retired senior who wishes to maintain a level of activity and independence while having the security and companionship of living among his peers. Retirement should be a wonderful time and finding the right independent living community is another step toward that happiness.