Determining Whether Independent Living, Assisted Living or Memory Care Is the Best Fit

Learn the differences between senior living care options to help you make the best choice

Happy senior woman using laptop at home

Healthy lifestyles, planning for retirement and knowing your options for health care and long-term care are more important than ever. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 10,000 people turn 65 every day in the United States, and people are living longer, healthier lives.

With tens of thousands of senior living options and retirement communities throughout the United States, you have almost limitless options – but that level of choice can also be overwhelming. Knowing a few key terms will help you navigate your options.

Independent living is essentially apartment life in a community of peers, with minimal need for caregiving. Assisted living is apartment living with ongoing personal care and support. Memory care is designed for individuals requiring special care for dementia and related illnesses. For older adults who need skilled nursing, nursing homes are an option.

Honestly assessing your physical and mental care requirements can be the most difficult part of choosing a community. After this first step, however, the rest is a matter of personal preference and affordability.

Once you know your needs, the following overview will help you ask the right questions of both yourself and your prospective retirement community.

Consider physical abilities

The following questions can help you determine what degree of assistance you need with daily activities, if any:

  • Can you complete personal hygiene tasks such as bathing, brushing teeth and shaving?
  • Can you get in and out of bed, chairs, the shower or bathtub, and vehicles?
  • Can you adequately feed yourself?
  • Can you take medications at the correct time and dosage?
  • Can you dress yourself?
  • Can you struggle with continence?

If you answered “no” to any of these questions, you likely need a community that offers assisted living services. That doesn’t necessarily mean an assisted living community. Holiday by Atria’s independent living communities welcome residents to select a third-party provider of their choice to meet their care needs.

Even if you are fully independent, it’s still important to understand the potential care needs you may have in the future.

Consider costs of senior living

The cost of a senior living community includes everything you need for daily living. It covers your apartment, housekeeping, meals, maintenance, security and amenities. Depending on the community, you may also have access to transportation to local appointments and outings, as well as community events and recreation. Independent senior living monthly costs are generally less than assisted living due to the personal care staff that are required.

Though the monthly cost may seem high at first, the costs for both independent and assisted living can be comfortably affordable compared to living at home and paying separately for rent or mortgage, food, utilities, housekeeping and maintenance. Beyond the literal nuts and bolts of the monthly budget, it’s hard to put a price on the peace of mind that comes with being part of a safe community.

Even with all-inclusive amenities, it’s still important to consider how you would pay. Some good questions to ask include:

  • How much can you afford to pay each month?
  • How much extra would you like to have left over each month?
  • Will you pay through insurance, home equity, Social Security, out-of-pocket savings or a combination?
  • Will you be able to afford assisted living services if your needs change?

Consider personal preferences

After determining the level of care you need, the next step is to consider your personal preferences regarding an independent living or assisted living community. In most independent living communities, you’ll be able to choose your apartment or cottage. For both independent and assisted living, the rest of the amenities, conveniences and services available can vary widely from one community to the next.

To find a community that suits your wants and needs, there are a few things to consider:

  • How big of a home do you want, and what kind of layout?
  • Do you want a pet to live with you?
  • Will you want to have visitors over often?
  • How physically active do you want to be?
  • How much do you want to socialize?
  • Do you want to have a lot of new and different things to try?
  • Do you want to remain close to where you live now or move farther away?
  • Do you want to be able to cook your own food?
  • Do you want to have easy access to restaurants, shops and parks?

Some communities may cater more toward active lifestyles, while others may provide amenities to make day-to-day life more enjoyable. Each Holiday community creates a monthly events calendar that brings residents new activities and opportunities to socialize. Whether you enjoy quiet reflection, exploring new hobbies or just living a low-maintenance lifestyle, there’s a community that has what you’re looking for.

Questions to ask a senior living community

After determining your care needs, personal preferences and budget, it’s time to narrow down the communities in the area where you want to live.

A quick Internet search will show you communities in your area, and each community will have some basic information about amenities and services. Once you’ve found a property you’re interested in, you can call to learn more about the community or, better yet, schedule an in-person tour to see what it’s like firsthand.

If you’re thinking about moving away from your current location – whether it’s to be closer to the beach or closer to family – you may be able to tour a community virtually so you can still get a sense of the layout and amenities.

Some good questions to ask during your conversation with a community manager include:

  • What home safety measures do you provide?
  • How much are monthly costs, and what is included in the rent?
  • What kinds of meals do you serve?
  • What kinds of housing options can I choose from?
  • What amenities, services and resources does the community offer?
  • What is the community’s culture like?
  • What is the average age of residents living in the community?
  • What types of attractions, such as restaurants, stores and parks, are nearby?
  • What activities, groups and clubs can I participate in?
  • Are pets welcome?
  • How often can I have visitors?
  • What will happen if my health declines?

The answers to these questions can help provide you with a better idea of what the community is like and the types of things you’ll have access to in your day-to-day life. If you are only considering assisted living communities, AARP offers a list of questions focused on assisted living communities.

After contacting a few different locations, you can weigh the benefits of each to make a well-informed decision.

Independent senior living communities near me

The easiest way to find a senior living community in your desired location is to use our helpful community locator tool. Enter the ZIP code or city and state you wish to live in, and you’ll be presented with the available options, as well as the services and amenities offered. After that, all you have to do is make a call. One of Holiday’s team members will be able to tell you more about the community, answer any questions you may have and help you schedule a tour.

You can always contact Holiday to learn general information or get connected to a retirement community in your area. We pride ourselves on making the transition to a new senior lifestyle an easy one.

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