Independent living facilities come in all shapes, sizes, locations, and price ranges; in fact, they are one of the fastest growing types of housing in many areas. This trend is likely going to continue for many years to come as the “baby boom” generation ages, so you can expect to hear more and more about it. Because there is so much interest in independent living facilities and such a wide variation in the services they offer, it’s a good idea to look at this popular housing option in more detail.
Are you ready for an independent living facility?
The first question to ask yourself is, of course, are you ready for an independent living facility? Many people find this type of housing to be a very positive change, allowing them greater security, flexibility, and freedom in their lives. Other people, however, find this type of housing to be more restrictive, less spacious, and less private than their previous housing.
Let’s look at some of the most common advantages and disadvantages of independent living facilities:
• Advantages o Secure building o No chores or other maintenance tasks such as in a regular house o Connections and friendships with others of similar age o Organized activities and programs o Variety of in-house services such as laundry, housekeeping, etc. o Allows for continued independent living when a physical or medical condition occurs
• Disadvantages o High cost in comparison to a regular house or apartment o Smaller living space often requires downsizing of furniture, household items, etc. o Close proximity to neighbors o Less privacy and space o Services can vary widely across different facilities and locations
These are just a sampling of things to be considered when you are deciding if an independent living facility is the right housing choice for you. The very best way to learn more is to do some specific research that includes visiting different types of independent living facilities to see them firsthand. Many also offer the opportunity for you to spend one or two nights there as a guest so you can get an even better idea of what the facility is like.
Different types of independent living facilities
Independent living facilities come in a wide variety of types and sizes. They are sometimes called by different names (senior apartments, retirement homes, retirement communities, retirement housing, senior housing, etc.) but what they all have in common is the overall goal of allowing seniors the opportunity to continue living independently when they are no longer willing or able to live in their own home.
In addition to the many different names for independent living housing, there are many different services that may or may not be offered in different facilities. Some facilities offer very few services (these tend to be the lowest cost) while other offer a wide range of services (these tend to be the highest cost). Some examples of potential services include:
• Organized activities (social gatherings, games, outdoor activities, group tours, etc.) • Household services (housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, etc.) • Lifestyle services (barber/beauty shops, fitness facilities, scheduled transportation, etc.)
Another variation you’ll find among independent living facilities is the type of housing offered. Some places offer apartment-style living, some offer individual cottages, some offer duplexes, and still others offer a mix of these types of accommodations.
Key questions to ask before committing to an independent living facility
There is a huge variation of facilities, services, and expectations across the many different versions of independent living housing. As you go through the process of researching and visiting independent living facilities, be sure to ask questions such as:
• What is the monthly cost? • Is there a “buy in” fee? If so, is it refundable? • Is there a minimum age (55+, 62+, etc.)? • What services are offered? • Are there additional fees for services offered? • If you plan to keep your own car, what about parking facilities? • If you don’t plan to keep your own car, what other transportation is available? • Is there some type of community meal service? • If your condition changes and you require higher levels of service, can you add on those services and remain in the facility?
This is just a partial list, of course, so make a longer list of your own specific questions. You can also tailor your questions for the specific independent living facility you plan to visit. Be sure to take your list with you when you visit and take notes on the answers you get. Remember, choosing independent living housing is a big decision and you should approach it just as you would any other major life decision.