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

residents of a senior living community smiling and sitting together
Image credit: Stock

If you're considering a senior community for your aging parents or relatives, you've likely realized there are a lot of options out there. It can be overwhelming to figure out whether an independent living facility or an assisted living facility is right for Mom or Dad, but it's an important decision and you should take the time to explore each option.

What is an independent living facility?

An independent living facility – also known as an active adult community, 55+ community, or retirement community – is any housing arrangement designed specifically for older adults who want to move where there are supportive services for the elderly.

Independent living provides hotel-style services, which include meals, housekeeping, laundry, security, medical support services and socially stimulating activities and entertainment, thus making it ideal for seniors who can still complete daily tasks with minimal to no support.

Housing is built with safety and convenience in mind, with communities providing generators in case of storms, transportation and valet service for people who still drive. However, more intensive services such as custodial, medical and memory care are not typically included in independent living facilities, since they typically are not licensed for direct care.

Many independent living communities provide access to direct care through independent care agencies that service the members of the community for an additional monthly charge. Some of these services include, bathing and dressing and medication management. This gives the resident the opportunity to ‘age in place’ without moving to assisted living.

What is an assisted living facility?

An assisted living facility is generally a community that is licensed by the state and the staff at the assisted living provides direct care by helping the resident perform activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, toileting, transferring, medication management, twenty-four hour supervision and well-being checks, as well as all of the hotel-style services of independent living. Some also offer memory care services for adults with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia.

Medical staff is available, but generally, independent living and assisted living communities are social models, not medical models. They do not typically provide intensive hands-on care or skilled nursing care services except in cases where they have additional licensing to do so for specific types of services.

Some senior living communities provide all-inclusive rate models and some have a room and board charge, with additional charges for direct personal care and medication management. Independent living vs. assisted living: Which is right for my parents?

When determining whether independent living placement or assisted living placement is best for your parents, consider the following factors:


The primary costs of independent living are rent. The amenities are included, with one exception in certain cases being electricity. Since independent living facilities do not offer medical care, they are not covered by insurance and financial aid programs, and thus residents need to pay privately.

Assisted living costs typically include rent, utilities, and basic services such as housekeeping and meals. As stated above, some communities have all-inclusive models which include hotel-style services as well as care and some have hotel-style services with a la carte care pricing.

Certain long term care insurance programs as well as Medicaid and Veteran’s Aide and Attendance can be used to offset the out-of-pocket cost of an assisted living facility. Medicare does not cover the costs of assisted living; only medical expenses.

Living spaces

Independent living communities offer a wide range of housing arrangements, from apartment communities to housing co-ops, but typically offer a private space as well as access to shared common areas. The features in independent living spaces are comparable to that of an apartment or small home.

In contrast, assisted living communities tend to have apartment-style housing, which may or may not include a kitchen. Assisted living facilities with dedicated memory care often have extra security measures to support resident safety.

Amenities and services

The services offered in independent living facilities – such as meals,restaurant-style dining, housekeeping, laundry, personal call system, transportation, socially stimulating activities and entertainment and valet services – are aimed at taking tasks off residents’ “to-do” lists. They are not designed to assist with activities of daily living.

Assisted living facilities, on the other hand, offer all the above services, as well as support with activities of daily living and medical care as required. Some assisted living communities also offer memory care.

As stated, both independent living and assisted living facilities typically offer transportation and easy access to healthcare, dining and entertainment in the larger community. They also both offer facility-wide events to support socialization and maintaining an active lifestyle.

Need a trusted senior placement agency? Contact Welcome Home Senior Services & Placement Co. today.

If you’re still unsure of which option is right for your parents, an experienced senior living placement agency can help you determine the best fit for your family’s needs and budget.

Welcome Home Senior Services & Placement Co. proudly represents over 500 senior communities in Miami-Dade, Broward, the Palm Beaches, the Florida Keys, and Lee and Collier Counties. We offer free assisted living placement services and independent living placement services for clients seeking the right senior community for their loved ones.

Contact us and let’s discuss the first steps in this new beginning for your family.



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