Independent Living vs. Assisted Living: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated: July 01, 2015

Where do you see yourself or a loved one living during retirement? If you’re like most people, you may think of independent living and assisted living as being essentially the same in terms of living types, amenities, and care options.  However, when you peel back the layers of services and living arrangements offered by both, one can quickly to understand the differences and the benefits each has to offer.
Independent Living Independent living: allows an individual to live without any assistance while relieving them of regular home maintenance and offers the opportunity to live near other people of the same age and similar interests. You may even be familiar with the variety of common names for independent living arrangements like “55+ community”, “senior apartments” or “adult community”. Most independent living arrangements provide opt-in services like meal preparation, transportation, housekeeping services, security services, and a multitude of social activities. If your independent living facility is tied to another entity that provides assisted living arrangements, you may also have the option of adding health care options to your independent living arrangement. These are known as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). Paying rent is the primary way to pay for the cost of independent living. Costs can vary widely depending on the amenities provided. For example, some communities offer private golf courses and/or health care services to tenants, which can become quite costly.  Government run healthcare financial aid programs do not cover the costs of independent living because of the limited medical care options. Your retirement plan savings and social security payments are typically the sources of funds for independent living costs. Assisted Living Assisted living: often the result of a life event that reduces an individual’s ability to live safely on their own.  Aging issues, memory loss/confusion, lack of physical abilities, and/or medical issues frequently accompany the transition to assisted living. Assisted living communities often provide some level of privacy in private or semi-private rooms.  Standard services provided usually include personal care, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, dining options, and 24-hour supervision.  Fulltime skilled nursing is not provided in assisted living facilities, however some communities have the ability to transition you to nursing home care if your health deteriorates. Government healthcare financial aid programs will normally only cover short-term assisted living stays. Typically, an individual’s retirement plan savings, social security, some long-term care insurance policies, and Veteran’s Administration benefit programs pays the cost for assisted living.   There are many variations to the available living options, so it’s important to compare the level of amenities and services provided. You will also need to research your particular state’s rules regarding the types of amenities and services provided, along with the cost differences from state to state.  Sit down with a Certified Financial Planner™ professional to discuss the various living arrangements available, what are the best option(s) for you, and develop a financial plan for the associated costs.   Need help? Give one of the Certified Financial Planner™ professionals at Pension Consultants a call at 800-234-9584 to learn more about the differences between Independent Living and Assisted Living and preparing for it. Your choice is your future!   PCI’s archived blog entries are dated, the rules and statutes referenced may have changed. The analysis or guidance within these blog entries may have become stale, dated, or no longer accurate. PCI will not update or change these entries to reflect the latest analysis or development.


Pension Consultants, Inc.



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