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What Is the Difference Between Assisted Living and Independent Living?

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An assisted living staff helping a resident to get up from the couch.

The place you live is not just where you spend your time. So for our parents in their golden years, finding the right living space is a pivotal decision. It marks a new chapter brimming with comfort, care, and exciting community adventures

Finding the right one for your loved one can be a challenge with so many different lifestyle options. Thankfully, it’s made easier by understanding the differences between them.

Two common options include assisted living and independent living. The difference is the level of daily living assistance provided to help residents flourish. The option that suits your loved ones best comes down to their unique needs.

Unpacking Assisted Vs. Independent Living

There are subtle, yet significant, differences between assisted and independent living. Some are legal definitions, while others are more based on policy. The main differences are the:

  • Level of care
  • Cost
  • Social activities
  • Community design

Read on for a quick summary of these 2 lifestyles.

Independent living caters to those who desire a community setting with minimal responsibilities. It lets residents pursue their passions, enjoy delicious meals, and take part in exciting activities without having to worry about the little chores that come with daily life like cooking. While support is there, there aren’t typically medical services, and housekeeping is light. Consider it like living at a resort.

On the other hand, assisted living provides a daily, structured support system, suitable for individuals requiring assistance with tasks like bathing, dressing, or medication management. 

There’s still a focus on autonomy but with more accommodations and support for physical or cognitive limitations. It’s akin to having a personal assistant who also happens to be your next-door neighbor.

What Is Assisted Living?

Assisted living facilities provide a structured environment with 24/7 access to caregivers. They’re typically smaller and a bit more self-contained so support is always nearby when your loved one needs it.

You’ll find custom care plans tailored to individual needs, medication assistance, and even emergency response systems. These are core to senior living, but life is more than checking off boxes. Personal care is about providing stimulating experiences to make every day fulfilling and vibrant.

An older adult couple eating a delicious and healthy meal in a senior living community.

The beauty of personal care isn’t just in its practical support—there’s a robust emphasis on fostering a rich, communal environment. This can mean delicious, chef-inspired meals that can be modified to meet dietary requirements and fun group activities, outings, and wellness programs, all managed to meet special needs.

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living is for people who need only a smidgen of assistance. It’s much like living at home, but can help promote community interaction. Residents here can savor senior life without worrying about housekeeping or home maintenance—as they’re typically included.

Independent living communities can vary greatly, and more independence is typically balanced by having less support. Still, for those who don’t need as much assistance, independent living can be a great way to enjoy retirement by joining social clubs, engaging in fitness classes, and relishing fine dining without having to clean the kitchen themselves.

Is Assisted Living or Independent Living the Right Choice?

The choice between assisted and independent living is deeply personal, influenced by health, preferences, and the type of social engagement desired. You’ll need to discuss the options with your loved one, helping them reflect on their future.

Begin by crafting a list of needs and wants. Consult with healthcare providers to assess the level of care required, then consider the lifestyle factors—such as favorite pastimes and social inclinations—that are non-negotiable.

This checklist can include:

  • What level of assistance with daily living do they need?
  • How important is it for them to have 24/7 on-site assistance?
  • Do they have specialized health conditions that need to be managed?

The activities of daily living (ADLs) act as a yardstick for discerning the level of assistance an individual might require. These include basic functions such as eating, bathing, dressing, toileting, and ambulating (walking or moving from a bed to a chair).

If your loved one finds themselves in need of help with one or more ADLs, assisted living is likely the more suitable option. In contrast, independent living is designed for the self-sufficient senior who mainly requires social engagement and some home maintenance-based services.

Once the needs are outlined, it’s time to sample what assisted and independent living communities have to offer. Tours and trials can provide firsthand experience of the environment, activities, and the feel of each community.

Explore Personal Care with Us

Senior living isn’t about compromise, it’s about choice. It’s about finding the tapestry that weaves the comforts of home with the serendipitous moments community life provides.

For us at Bellvue Village at Neese Road, it’s not about assistance, it’s about personal care. We invite you to take a deep breath with us and explore what personal care can do for your loved one.

Book a tour to explore our community and experience senior living driven by a fulfilling life and vibrant surroundings.

Written by Angela Clark

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