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Your Complete Guide to Independent Living

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What is independent living?

Independent living offers a carefree lifestyle for older adults, usually age 55 and above, who want to enjoy retirement with ease. Senior communities that called themselves “independent living” provide a variety of convenient services and amenities, including housekeeping, social activities, prepared meals, transportation, and landscaping. Most communities also offer 24-hour access to staff in case of an emergency.

Unlike assisted living, independent living doesn’t provide help with personal care, like bathing or toileting. In fact, seniors at independent living facilities are generally active, healthy, and able to live on their own, but they may desire convenience and more social opportunities.

“Convenience means being able to enjoy the benefits of retirement while at the same time minimizing or eliminating the work that comes with adult life,” says Maureen Bradley, a specialist with A Place for Mom who has advised families on senior care for more than 20 years.

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What amenities does independent senior living provide?

Independent living communities offer on-site services and amenities to improve quality of life for seniors and help them live independently as long as possible. Perks of independent living include the following:

A convenient, maintenance-free lifestyle. Household maintenance and chores can become difficult for aging adults. While some may find cooking or gardening therapeutic, other housework — such as bending over to clean floors or climbing ladders to change light bulbs — can be time-consuming and may lead to unnecessary injuries. Independent living residents don’t need to worry about home repairs, lawn maintenance, or housekeeping.

Dining services. Some independent living communities offer meal plans, so residents can choose when they want to cook and when they want to enjoy a communal meal with friends. With a meal plan, three meals are provided each day in a common dining room. Menus are developed with senior nutritional needs in mind and cater to different dietary restrictions. Snacks and drinks may also be offered in all-inclusive facilities. If seniors prefer to cook for themselves, many independent living communities offer apartments with full or partial kitchens.

Sense of community. Nearly 13.8 million seniors age alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While living alone doesn’t necessarily lead to loneliness, certain factors may make it more difficult for older adults to stay connected with loved ones. Chronic conditions, mobility impairment, lack of transportation, and changes in family dynamics — such as divorce or loss of loved ones — may contribute to senior isolation. Loneliness and isolation may worsen health conditions and increase the risk of cognitive decline in seniors.

Independent living provides older adults with a built-in community of people at a similar stage of life. Shared amenities and a variety of activities make it easy for residents to engage with others and meet new friends.

Recreational and social activities. Older adults who are active and engaged tend to live happier, fuller lives. However, issues like limited mobility and lack of transportation may be barriers for aging adults who want to stay social.

An independent living lifestyle offers a variety of social activities that appeal to many tastes and preferences. Planned events focus on different aspects of wellness: physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual. Residents interested in connecting with like-minded people often enjoy movie nights, fitness classes, book clubs, and more. The burden of transportation is lifted as well, since communities often provide transportation services for group social activities.

Independent living encourages older adults to stay active and engaged.

Complementary transportation. Older adults are at increased risk of car accidents. While some independent living residents choose to continue driving, they may also rely on the convenience of scheduled, complimentary transportation services provided by many communities. These transportation services can be used for social outings, medical appointments, shopping, and other errands.

Spacious floor plans. Independent living apartments are designed to be accessible for seniors with all mobility needs. Floor plans generally include low thresholds, widened doorways, and grab bars to reduce fall risks. Some apartments include full kitchens and spacious living rooms, while others are similar to cozy studios with built-in kitchenettes.

Pet-friendly environment. Moving to an independent living facility doesn’t mean you need to say goodbye to furry friends. Many communities allow pets or host pet-therapy sessions. However, some complexes may have rules and restrictions related to the types, size, and number of pets. If you’re planning to bring a pet to live with you at an independent living community, be sure to ask about the pet policy and fees.

Independent living amenities

While amenities vary across communities, independent living communities often feature some or all of the following:

  • Beauty salon and barbershop
  • Movie theater
  • Library
  • Walking paths, communal garden, or courtyard
  • Pool or spa
  • Fitness center
  • Art and crafts studio
  • Health clinic
  • Pharmacy
  • Private event spaces

What are the benefits of independent living services?

Independent living communities are designed to fulfill all of a healthy, active senior’s needs in one convenient location. The benefits of independent living services include a sense of community, a maintenance-free lifestyle, and peace of mind that chores are taken care of. By reducing the stresses of everyday life, independent living services can help seniors focus on their retirement goals and the activities they love.

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How much does independent living cost?

The monthly median cost of an independent living apartment in the U.S. is $3,000, according to A Place for Mom’s 2023 report on the cost of long-term care collected from our partner communities. Keep in mind that the cost of independent living for seniors varies based on many factors, including location, amenities, the types of services provided, and size of accommodations. If you’re planning to live with someone, like a spouse or friend, it may cost extra.

How does rent in independent living work?

Rent in independent living communities is generally all-inclusive. This means the monthly base rent fee covers housing, utilities, meals, and on-site amenities. An all-inclusive independent living arrangement allows residents to spend less time managing and paying bills and more time enjoying life. However, seniors may have to pay separately for add-on services, like laundry, haircuts, or transportation, depending on the community.

Be sure to ask these questions to thoroughly understand what your monthly rent covers:

  • What services and amenities does the base rent cover?
  • What fees, services, or amenities aren’t included in the base rent?
  • What a la carte services are available?
  • Are there different apartment sizes and styles? What are the price differences?
  • How often does the monthly price increase, and by how much?
  • How long is the lease?
  • Are there any separate fees for things like parking, pets, or additional tenants?

How do you pay for independent living?

Medicaid, Medicare, and other health insurance policies won’t cover independent living, but there are other ways to pay for a retirement community. Consider the following options:

  • Personal funds. Most seniors use personal funds like savings, retirement income, or investments to pay for independent living.
  • Home equity. If you own a home, you may be able to sell it or rent it to to pay for independent living.
  • Life insurance. In some cases, you may be able to surrender or sell your life insurance policy for a lump sum to help fund independent living.
  • Bridge loan. Short-term loans can help pay for independent living while you’re selling your home or liquidating other assets to cover costs.
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What sets independent living apart from other senior care types?

Unlike senior care facilities, independent living communities don’t provide medical care services or assistance with activities of daily living. They instead provide more on-site, resort-style amenities to help independent seniors pursue their goals and aspirations. For this reason, it’s most beneficial to compare independent living communities with senior apartments and other active adult communities, so you can find the community that fits your needs.

“The niche of independent living is the combination of freedom, choice, and safety,” Bradley says. “Independent living, by taking care of the basics of upkeep around the house, grants seniors the freedom to live their best life in whatever way that is meaningful to them. The safety benefit comes from the security of living near others, and very frequently independent living communities are gated or have on-site security. This provides peace of mind for a vulnerable population.”

Before choosing a community, explore the chart below to understand your options, assess your needs and preferences, and compare retirement community costs.

ServicesAssisted livingIndependent livingActive adult communitiesSenior apartments
Exterior home maintenancexxxx
Accessibility and senior-friendly features and designxxxx
Fitness center or gymxxx
24-hour staff to help with emergenciesxx
Complimentary transportationxx
Meal servicesxx
Social activities and outingsxx
Medication managementx
Help with personal care and mobilityx

What if you need more help and support later on?

Combining independent senior living with home care may be an option for older adults who experience changes in health and care needs. In-home caregivers come to seniors’ homes or apartments to provide a variety of services. These services can be personalized and may include help with mobility, personal care, medication management, and much more.

However, it’s important to consider how much help is needed when you’re calculating home care costs. Home care agencies typically charge by the hour and may require a minimum of several contracted hours per week. The fee is also calculated based on the types of services provided. This means that those hourly fees can add up to a hefty monthly cost. When the time comes, a move to a senior care community with a flat monthly rate for personal care may be the most economic option.

Continuing care retirement communities, or CCRCs, are another option for older adults who might need future help with personal care — like dressing, bathing, or toileting — as they age. CCRCs offer a continuum of care for seniors as their needs change, with levels like independent living, assisted living, and memory care. Seniors in CCRCs may start in an independent living level then transfer to assisted living or memory care within the same community. This gives seniors options if their health and medical needs evolve, so they won’t have to relocate for care.

If you choose a stand-alone independent living community with only one care level, but your health care needs increase, A Place for Mom can help you find assisted living or memory care to best meet current needs.

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Is independent living right for me?

Independent senior living communities are a great option for older adults who are generally healthy and active. Remember that independent living residents don’t need medical assistance or help with personal care, but they may be interested in living in a secure community where they can develop new connections with peers, participate in social events and outings, and enjoy the perks of maintenance-free living.

Ask yourself these questions to decide if independent living is right for you:

  • Am I generally healthy and able to care for myself without daily help?
  • Would I like to delegate household chores, like laundry and cleaning?
  • Would I enjoy having cooked meals based on my dietary needs?
  • Is it increasingly difficult to keep up with home repairs and lawn maintenance?
  • Does living in an apartment community with other active seniors sound appealing?
  • Would I enjoy opportunities to stay social and make new friends while still maintaining my privacy?
  • Would I value the additional security of having 24-hour staff available in case of an emergency?
  • Am I interested in spending more time focusing on hobbies and a healthy lifestyle?

If you answered “yes” to most of the questions above, independent living may be right for you. Read on to discover how one of A Place for Mom’s Senior Living Advisors can help you explore options.

What is the best age to move into independent living?

Most independent living communities require residents to be over the age of 55. However, many residents are older. Some communities require residents to be at least 60 or even 65. Each community has its own rules and regulations, so be sure to ask about age requirements when you tour.

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How do I choose an independent living facility?

Independent living communities come in all shapes and sizes to fit seniors’ preferences and budgets. While some may be large, resort-like communities, others might be smaller retirement homes with fewer services and amenities.

Bradley says enjoyment means something different to everyone, and that care needs are unique as well, so those are two key factors for people to discuss before choosing an independent living community.

“For instance, if someone is very physically active, they want to look for communities with good gyms and personal trainers on staff. Many independent living communities have live instructors that teach yoga or other exercise classes,” Bradley explains. “When talking about care needs, if a person needs a little help but is still not ready for assisted living, they should look for communities that allow home care companies to offer services on site.”

When choosing an independent living facility, start by considering the following:

  • Location. Think about whether you want to move to an independent living facility in the same area you currently live in, or if you want to relocate to be close to friends or family members.
  • Services and amenities. Ensure your lifestyle preferences and health needs match community offerings. For instance, if you don’t drive, you might consider transportation services a priority. For seniors with limited mobility, a smaller community might be a better choice.
  • Dining options. How many meals are offered each day? Are snacks and beverages included in the monthly base fee? Do menus cater to specific dietary needs?
  • Staff friendliness and community culture.Touring the community can provide opportunities to interact with different staff members. You may also want to talk with current residents to understand what everyday life at the community is like.
  • Social activities. When touring a community, ask to see a calendar of planned activities to determine if they align with your interests. In some cases, communities are willing to incorporate new activities to match residents’ preferences, so be sure to ask about that, too.
  • Safety features. Your peace of mind is a priority. Consider what safety features will make you feel comfortable in your new home. Some communities may offer emergency alert systems or 24-hour security.
  • Budget and costs. Costs are usually influenced by location, services, and apartment size. Consider what you can afford and whether you can be flexible when it comes to choosing a location or type of accommodations.
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How do I find an independent living facility near me?

If you’re unsure about how to start your search for independent living, our Senior Living Advisors can help connect you with communities in your area. These local experts can discuss living preferences, amenities, and care needs, as well as your family’s budget and financial situation, to find the ideal fit for you or your loved one — all at no cost to your family.

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Independent Living

Independent living facilities offer convenient, hassle-free living in a social environment for seniors who are active, healthy, and able to live on their own.

The score shown is the overall experience rating which is an average of the reviews submitted for those communities. The overall experience rating is a star rating that ranges from 1 being the lowest to 5 being the highest.

Below are the 52 largest cities grouped by their metropolitan area.

Top states for Independent Living

California (CA)
2016 facilities
Oregon (OR)
458 facilities
Ohio (OH)
1137 facilities
Texas (TX)
1481 facilities
Massachusetts (MA)
404 facilities
Wisconsin (WI)
1329 facilities
Colorado (CO)
506 facilities
Idaho (ID)
173 facilities
Illinois (IL)
1010 facilities
Virginia (VA)
614 facilities
Maryland (MD)
427 facilities
Arizona (AZ)
691 facilities
Washington (WA)
680 facilities
Florida (FL)
1860 facilities
South Carolina (SC)
448 facilities
Nevada (NV)
149 facilities
Pennsylvania (PA)
1383 facilities
Minnesota (MN)
1038 facilities
Louisiana (LA)
150 facilities
Michigan (MI)
1193 facilities
Georgia (GA)
790 facilities
Iowa (IA)
650 facilities
Delaware (DE)
67 facilities
Maine (ME)
189 facilities
Tennessee (TN)
561 facilities
Kansas (KS)
380 facilities
Indiana (IN)
588 facilities
New Jersey (NJ)
440 facilities
Mississippi (MS)
220 facilities
North Carolina (NC)
798 facilities
Oklahoma (OK)
345 facilities
Arkansas (AR)
219 facilities
Missouri (MO)
764 facilities
Vermont (VT)
81 facilities
New Hampshire (NH)
116 facilities
Kentucky (KY)
351 facilities
North Dakota (ND)
120 facilities
Nebraska (NE)
341 facilities
Connecticut (CT)
271 facilities
Alabama (AL)
335 facilities
New York (NY)
906 facilities
Utah (UT)
195 facilities
Montana (MT)
151 facilities
New Mexico (NM)
124 facilities
Wyoming (WY)
64 facilities
West Virginia (WV)
63 facilities
South Dakota (SD)
167 facilities
Alaska (AK)
41 facilities
Rhode Island (RI)
66 facilities
Hawaii (HI)
58 facilities
Puerto Rico (PR)
1 facilities

Reviews and awards

The Best of Senior Living Award showcases top senior living communities stand out for their exceptional care and support of seniors.

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