How To Find The Best Independent Living Options Near You

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As a person’s care needs evolve and their overall capabilities change, it’s common for older adults to seek out different living arrangements—such as an independent living community.

An independent living community can be an ideal setting for older adults keen on maintaining a sense of autonomy but who may require easier access to social connections and activities, as well as fewer home maintenance responsibilities. Read on to learn more about independent living communities, including how to find the right one for you and what to consider when choosing a new place to call home.

What Is an Independent Living Community?

Independent living communities are intended for older adults who can perform activities of daily living (ADLs) like bathing, using the toilet and cooking but who may benefit from living in an environment that provides avenues to engage in activities and offers help with maintaining living spaces.

An independent living community is a residential housing option designed for older adults who are relatively active and self-sufficient, adds Lakelyn Eichenberger, a Nebraska-based gerontologist and caregiving advocate at Home Instead, a home health care company. Independent living communities may consist of single-family homes, duplexes, private apartments or villas with shared common spaces for socializing and other activities. Depending on the community, independent living communities may also provide services like housekeeping, transportation, meals and wellness programs for residents, says Eichenberger.

“An independent living community can be part of a larger care retirement community or be a freestanding community comprising homes, condos or apartments within a gated area,” adds Lisa Grod, Ph.D., a gerontologist based in California.

Who Is Independent Living For?

Independent living communities are ideal for older adults who are active and capable of living independently with limited assistance, says Eichenberger. “Those who are social and enjoy the company of others would also likely thrive in this environment, especially in communities that offer activities and communal dining.”

Independent people with mobility challenges may also benefit from living in communities that offer accessible accommodations and amenities, such as wheelchair ramps and rooms or gathering places equipped with loop systems to assist people with hearing loss, says Eichenberger.

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How to Find the Best Independent Living Options Near You

Selecting an independent living community is an investment worth careful consideration—and should entail reviewing various options for the best fit before making a decision. Below are specific tips on how to find the best independent living options near you.

Browse Online Directories

Online directories can provide location-directed listings and reviews of nearby independent living communities, advises Eichenberger.

These directories provide a listing of independent living facilities searchable by location. These listings usually include the independent living facility’s rating, location, services and facilities provided, reviews and contact information.

Eichenberger recommends evaluating the credibility of a directory by looking into whether it is associated with a reputable organization, such as a government agency, a well-known senior advocacy group or a trusted health care provider.

She also recommends working with an advisor or agency who is willing to be transparent about their services, the costs and how they operate. “Many of these organizations are free to the older adult and their families but are compensated by the senior living communities if they make a referral,” she says. “You may want to look into and interview a few directories to get a feel for the organization and determine which one you are most comfortable working with.”

Ask a Senior Care Advisor or Other Expert

Discussing potential options, accommodations and considerations with an expert can also help, says Eichenberger. You can find relevant expertise through a senior care advisor or a senior placement service provider, both of whom often offer guidance free of charge for older adults, says Eichenberger. Independent living communities may pay an advisor for these consulting services if a resident chooses their community, adds Eichenberger.

Visit Various Communities

While it’s important to conduct research online, visiting communities in person can help future residents and their families familiarize themselves with a community’s atmosphere, meet current residents and assess the amenities and services offered to determine if it meets their needs, says Eichenberger.

Pay special attention to factors like proximity to loved ones and other essentials, such as a preferred grocery store, pharmacy or primary care provider. “Do you want to choose a location close to family and friends? Do you want it near certain health care facilities, a faith community, shopping centers or other essential services? This can help you narrow down the search area regarding the location,” she explains. Eichenberger also recommends visiting a community during “off hours” to experience its atmosphere beyond scheduled tours.

Dig Deep on Cost Breakdowns..

Making sure a community’s cost fits within your budget is an important step in finding the right independent living option for your needs, says Eichenberger. “The costs of independent living can vary greatly, so it’s important to look at your budget and what you can afford upfront and monthly.”

New residents may be required to pay several fees like a one-time move-in fee and fees to join the community, says Eichenberger. It’s also worth asking about pet fees, landscaping costs, trash fees or any other community costs—which can quickly pile up. “Some communities offer an all-inclusive monthly payment that covers rent, housekeeping, meals, activities and other amenities. Others have tiered or add-on pricing for certain services.” Always ask for a cost breakdown of each service and amenity to get a clear picture of monthly (and yearly) expenses.

Eichenberger also suggests discussing plans for a move to an independent living facility with a financial advisor to ensure you have a clear understanding of the costs involved and understand all potential financial implications. “Remember, the goal is to find a place where you can enjoy an enriching and fulfilling lifestyle while maintaining your independence and well-being.”

What to Consider When Searching for an Independent Living Community

Before deciding on an independent living residence, consider these crucial factors.

Rules and Regulations

Independent living communities often have rules and regulations regarding behavior, aesthetics, property maintenance and other day-to-day concerns. “These rules are designed to create a safe and comfortable living environment,” according to Eichenberger. “Rules may include things like guest policies, maintenance standards, safety protocols and financial obligations.”

Before signing any paperwork, explore each community’s rules and regulations to ensure they fit with your lifestyle and needs. For example, pet owners should find out if the community accommodates pets and if there are any specific pet ownership restrictions or guidelines. Many communities also have rules regarding the age of residents—and how long people are allowed to stay—both of which are important to consider before choosing a place to live.

Amenities

Some independent living communities may provide amenities like housekeeping, transportation, meals, and wellness programs for their residents, says Eichenberger. Other amenities may include recreation centers, clubhouses, pickleball and tennis courts, cafes and ​​movie theaters.

“Amenities in independent living communities can vary from one facility to another. Some amenities might be included in the monthly rent or fees, while others may be offered as optional services for an additional cost,” says Eichenberger. “One example of an amenity that may vary by the community is transportation. Most communities offer transportation, but the fee structures tend to differ.” She recommends asking what the monthly fees cover and what amenities you might have to pay extra for.

Activities and Community

Ask to see each community’s activities calendar to get a sense of community engagement and view their planned events, suggests Eichenberger.

Staff Qualifications

Inquiring about a community’s staff members and their availability and qualifications is essential when considering an independent living facility. Eichenberger recommends asking about staff credentials, qualifications turnover and what type of care is available to residents. If the community offers onsite health care, confirm whether primary care doctors or nurses are available, and at what times of day. All care professionals should have training in first aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, fire safety and other necessary training to ensure the well-being of residents, says Grod.

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