Independent senior living
Independent senior living communities, also known as retirement communities, assisted living, senior living communities or independent retirement communities, are housing designed for seniors 55 and older.
Independent senior living communities commonly provide apartments but some also offer cottages, condominiums, and single-family homes. Residents are seniors who do not require assistance with daily activities or 24/7 skilled nursing but may benefit from convenient services, senior-friendly surroundings, and increased social opportunities that independent senior living communities offer.
Independent senior living communities are also popular among snowbird seniors who wish to downsize or travel freely without the burden of managing a home.
Many retirement communities offer dining services, basic housekeeping and laundry services, transportation to appointments and errands, activities, social programs, and access to exercise equipment. Some also offer emergency alert systems, live-in managers, and amenities like pools, spas, clubhouses, and onsite beauty and barber salons.
Independent senior living properties do not provide health care or assistance with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as medication, bathing, eating, dressing, toileting and more. Independent senior living differs from continuing care communities, which offer independent living along with multiple other levels of care, such as assisted living and skilled nursing, in one single residence.
The total operational resident capacity for independent senior living communities in the United States is 245,000. Holiday Retirement is the largest single provider of independent living with a resident capacity of 40,440 at 315 retirement communities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Types of Independent Senior Living
- Senior Apartments: Most common type of independent senior living. Services usually include recreational programs, transportation, and meals service.
- Housing Units: Senior communities that offer single-family homes, duplexes, mobile homes, townhouses, cottages, or condominiums. Some communities are tied to an adjoining, apartment-style independent senior living community. Residents may have the option to rent or buy.
- Continuing Care: Communities that provide access to independent living communities as well as assisted living and skilled nursing. Residents can transfer among levels of care as needs change. Some CCRCs also provide memory care facilities.
- Subsidized Housing: The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides communities for low-income seniors. Subsidized communities usually adhere to strict criteria and may have lengthy waiting lists.
- Naturally Occurring Retirement Community (NORC): A community that has a large population of senior residents but was not originally designed for seniors. These evolve naturally as people age-in-place over time or migrate into the same area. They are not created to meet the needs of seniors.
A typical independent senior living community resident is a person 55 and older who is mentally and physically capable of living alone without skilled nursing or assistance with day-to-day activities. Some residents may need assistance with a few activities of daily living and can obtain third-party home health care services.
Seniors who may benefit from less home upkeep and increased access to nutritious meals, social interaction, physical and mental stimulation, and transportation make ideal independent senior living community residents. 
Assisted Living vs. Independent Senior Living
The most significant difference between assisted living and independent senior living is the care provided. Residents of assisted living facilities require assistance with daily activities like medication, eating, bathing, dressing, and toileting.
Independent senior living residents are able to live on their own with limited assistance (provided by third-party home health care providers, if needed) and without around-the-clock supervision. Neither assisted living nor senior independent living communities offer 24/7 skilled nursing that is provided at nursing homes.
Independent senior living communities are the least expensive of the three primary senior living options. Monthly costs vary significantly by community type, size of apartment, location and services offered. The average total cost for a U.S. one bedroom independent senior living apartment is $2,750 per month.
In 2011, the average rate for a private bedroom at a U.S. nursing home was $239 per day, or nearly $7,270 per month. Average rate for a private bedroom at an assisted living community was $3,477 per month. Continuing care communities require an entrance fee that ranges from $20,000 to $500,000, in addition to monthly fees that range from $500 to $3,000 or more depending on services.
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