Grandmother preapring salad with granddaughter in the kitchen.
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Independent Living

Independent living refers to a way of life in residential communities designed specifically for those who have reached or are nearing retirement age, but want to remain active and independent.

Table of Contents

What Is Independent Living?

Independent living refers to residential communities intended exclusively for those who have reached retirement age, but remain active and independent. These communities can be as affordable as a contemporary apartment community, or as lavish as a resort with nightly five-star dining. They all feature housing options designed for seniors; in addition, some include social activities, amenities, and services for a more carefree lifestyle. 

Unlike assisted living, independent living communities generally include full kitchens; they are generally designed for those who do not need assistance with daily tasks such as eating, bathing, and medication administration. However, most independent living communities will allow onsite home care companies to work with their residents if care needs change over time.

What Does an Independent Living Community Look Like?

There are a wide array of housing options in independent living communities. These can range from apartment buildings and condos to duplex cottages and detached garden homes. Regardless of the type, many will include added features designed for the safety and ease of senior living. These may include:

  • Handicap accessibility
  • Emergency alert systems
  • First-floor living or access to elevators

These types of retirement living communities come in various sizes and layouts. They are often part of a larger community that also offers housing for seniors that require more extensive care, such as assisted living or skilled nursing care. This type of larger community is called a Continuing Care Retirement Community, advantageous because residents don’t have to move off campus even if they eventually require more substantial care.

Independent living communities are typically located in or near residential or urban areas, giving residents easy access to outside establishments, shops, and restaurants.

What Is It Like to Live in an Independent Living Community?

Senior man putting a record on record player.

Residents in independent living communities have the freedom to come and go anytime, while still enjoying the privacy of their own home or apartment. There are no limitations on visitors or visiting hours, and some communities even allow pets.

Meals are often included in the monthly fee, although most community housing includes individual kitchens so that residents can cook on their own. Transportation is also typically offered, but residents still have the option to drive.


In addition to communal spaces such as dining rooms, common areas, and clubhouses, communities typically offer a variety of regularly scheduled activities for social engagement. These can include:

  • Arts and crafts sessions
  • Tai chi, yoga, and other fitness activities
  • Card games and billiards
  • Shopping trips and other outings
  • Religious services


Most independent living communities incorporate basic services in their monthly fees. These could include:

  • Home maintenance
  • Housekeeping
  • Laundry services
  • Meals
  • Transportation

Communities also offer around-the-clock security for the safety and comfort of their residents.

Cost of Independent Living

The cost of independent living can vary greatly based on amenities and area of town. Typically the cost of independent living will fall between $1500-$6200 a month. Other things that could influence the cost are:

  • Community location
  • Amenities
  • Dining plans or options
  • Building materials, like granite, will bring a higher price point
  • Type and size of residence
  • Location of the residence within the community

Questions to Ask When Researching Independent Living Communities

Here are some questions to ask when determining whether a specific residential community is right for you or your loved one:


  • Is there an entrance fee?
  • What is the monthly fee?
  • What services and amenities does the monthly fee cover?
  • What other services are provided at an additional cost?


  • Is there an activity program? How many people participate?
  • Do they have multigenerational programming?
  • Is there scheduled transportation?
  • Are there regular outings or field trips?


  • What are the different unit options and sizes?
  • Is there a medical alert system in each unit?
  • What meals are provided? Do they cater to dietary restrictions?


  • Is the staff friendly and helpful?
  • Is someone available 24 hours a day?
  • What is the average length of employment for the community staff?

Is Independent Living Right for Me?

Consider these statements:

  • I am in good health, and do not need help bathing or moving around
  • I like having my own living space
  • I worry about an accident happening at home without having help nearby
  • I want to live in a community with people my own age
  • I feel isolated at home and would love to have friends nearby

If most or all of the above statements apply to you, then an Independent Living Community may be a good option. You could also consider the following senior living options:

If you need a bit more help with day-to-day living, some more supportive options may be a good fit for you:

If you need more hands-on care, the following options may be a better fit for you:

Still not sure? Take our Care Assessment to see what care level may be best.

The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.

– Mother Teresa