Independent Living Guide

Learn all about independent living including cost,
moving, and what an independent living community can offer.

What is Independent Living?

Independent living is for healthy, active seniors 55 years and above, who seek a maintenance free lifestyle. It can be a senior apartment or a lifestyle offered in an independent community, also called a retirement community. A senior apartment is an apartment charging a monthly rent with no or few amenities. It may or may not include utilities. Residents may still work or be retired.

Accommodations can be modest or up to luxury and everything in between. One-and-two bedroom -apartments or condos are the most common in independent living, but some communities offer independent studios. Cottages or villas are small ranch-style homes designed for one level living are very popular. Features of the residences can include patios, balconies, parking or garages, and more.

An independent living community can offer many amenities. The main offerings are meals, housekeeping and activities. Transportation may also be offered, or the community may be conveniently located close to public transportation. These amenities may be charged à la carte or included in the monthly rent. An independent living community may offer a calendar of activities and events. A fitness center, community room for activities, a movie theater, billiards or swimming pool are other desirable amenities. Beautiful places to sit and enjoy being outdoors, walking paths, and gardens are also favorite features of residents.

The goal of a retirement community is to provide a safe and engaging environment for an older adult who wants to live a life full of choices, opportunities to socialize, to learning and have experiences that are meaningful to them. This special time of life opens up new possibilities every day to fully engage in what is joyful.

Independent retirement communities can be a separate part of a community that also has assisted living. It can also be a stand-alone community or part of a CCRC.

What is a CCRC?

A CCRC (continuing care retirement community) offers all levels of care. Residents start out in independent living and transition to higher care levels as needs change. Set on a large parcel of land, all the buildings and structures of the community create a campus. In most CCRC, an entrance fee or buy-in is charged along with a monthly service fee. This entrance fee may have the option of a certain percentage being returned if the senior is no longer living there. The funds are returned upon the sale of the unit to the next new owner.

Things to Consider About Independent Living

There is a wide range of rates for independent living depending on the luxury factor, square footage of housing and amenities offered. When determining what is affordable, costs change in a community as opposed to owning a home. There may be less money spent on groceries if the community offers meals, or a flexible meal plan, or even a continental breakfast. Entertainment and activities can be plentiful at most independent retirement communities and much of it is free. There will be no money spent on outside maintenance, real estate taxes or homeowner’s insurance. Since many of the retirement communities offer transportation, it is an easier transition to go down to one car or no car at all. Monthly rental or service agreements may include cable and utilities.

Thinking about how much space is actually needed is time well spent. When considering a downsize from a home, evaluating how much of the home is really used for active living and how many items may need to be purged can often lead to a realization that less is more. When viewing well designed spaces purposely built for senior living, residents are surprised at how much ‘stuff’ they don’t need and how much they enjoy ‘right-sized’ living.

Help When the Thought of Moving May Be Overwhelming

There are many transitions in life that, while you want to move forward, the path to get there can be daunting. Just talk to anyone who is ready to downsize, and the struggle is real. Moving from the home that you raised your family in for the last 35 or more years can leave the most optimistic person overwhelmed. Not to worry! There is help.

One of the first places to look for help is the retirement community you want to move into. They are a wealth of information! The community may offer design services to you, a designer or space planner to help go through the furniture you have or want to keep and design your new home with a floor plan to make sure it fits and even help you shop for pieces you want to add.

Local Realtors

A local realtor familiar with your market is an excellent resource. They can help you determine what options you have in getting the best price for your home. Will it be better to do nothing and sell ‘as-is’ as a fixer upper or are there a few projects that need to be done to garner the highest price? There are some realtors that specialize in working with seniors and their housing needs. They have had extra training to help guide seniors through this process. These realtors have the SRES designation, which stands for Seniors Real Estate Specialists as awarded by the National Association of Realtors.

Busy local realtors also have access to handypersons, landscapers, painters etc. who can help get projects completed. Realtors may also have people they work with who are looking to invest in housing that may need some attention.

Home Stagers

Home Stagers can be another excellent option to help you decide what to keep and what to bring. They will come to your home and give you a plan on how to best accessorize your home to sell for top dollar and they can help create your new space complete with accessories and art on the walls. They also have the labor to make it happen.

Professional Organizers

Professional Organizers offer decluttering services and can help sort out your possessions and help strategize, organize and clean out all the areas of your home and garage. They can help you determine what to sell, what to donate and what should be moved to your new location. Professional Organizers can organize the interior contents of kitchens, linen closets and any closet. They can help sort through clothing, decorations, memorabilia and anything else that may be in boxes that you may or may not have seen in years.

Right-sizing can be an exciting time and there can be as much help as you need. The first step in living a maintenance free life-style is literally taking that first step that will move you forward. It doesn’t matter if it is to the realtor, or finding the new community of your dreams, or calling an organizer to help declutter. There is no right or wrong. It is just a matter of getting started. Hiring professionals that work with seniors can be an advantage because they have experience in helping older adults with these kinds of transitions. They are compassionate and understand that it is not just a move and that it can be an emotional journey. It is their goal to make this transition as easy as possible for you.

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